Apple received antitrust complaint in France for privacy checks

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Apple has been hit by an antitrust complaint in France over its intention to restrict trackers used for mobile advertising, one of the first lawsuits alleging that large tech groups are using privacy arguments to abuse their privacy powers. market.

A coalition of professional online advertising groups – including publishers, app makers, ad technology groups and social media platforms – called on the French competition authority to stop Apple from enforcing privacy controls early next year that would cripple targeted advertising on iPhones.

As part of Apple’s plans, many apps will have to explicitly ask users if they agree to their behavior being tracked on other apps and websites, a step that is likely to significantly reduce access to identifiers, known as IDFA, which are the backbone of mobile advertising. .

The complaint filed with the French Competition Authority alleges that Apple is using the pretext of privacy protection to stifle competition by going beyond EU data protection laws. Complainants say Apple will keep itself down and increase its own revenue, both from advertising in app searches and promoting businesses towards a subscription model, from which it will take reduced payments. .

Damien Geradin, lawyer at Geradin Partners who represents the plaintiffs, said: “While confidentiality is important and needs to be protected, privacy rhetoric cannot be used as a fig leaf to justify anti-competitive practices that will destroy the mobile advertising ecosystem while benefiting Apple. ”

Apple said it believes privacy is a “basic human right” and that the controls will not prohibit tracking. “A user’s data is theirs and they have to decide if they want to share their data and with whom,” the company said. “These rules apply equally to all developers – including Apple – and we have received strong support from regulators and privacy advocates.

The coalition complaining includes the professional digital advertising body IAB France, whose board of directors includes representatives from LinkedIn, Google and Le Monde; the Mobile Marketing Association France, whose advisory board includes members of Publicis and Facebook; and Udecam and SRI, which act for media buyers and sellers respectively.

Trade bodies consult with members when they file legal complaints, but not all members are necessarily in favor.

If the French competition watchdog accepts the request for “interim measures”, this could force Apple to negotiate with the makers of applications or to stop the changes. The coercive measures would only apply to France but could lead to complaints from other competition authorities.

A spokesperson for the Autorité de la concurrence confirmed having received the complaint and promised to “examine it with great attention given that it is part of a sector it follows closely”.

Facebook was particularly critical of the Apple IDFA changes. David Fischer, chief revenue officer for Facebook, described it as part of an “assault” on the personalized advertising model, with serious implications for ad-dependent businesses.

Nicolas Rieul, President of IAB France, presented Apple’s actions as part of a “long-term strategy” aimed at strengthening its advertising activities on the Search Network, which offers application manufacturers a paid promotion within the Apple App Store. “If they do, the impact will be huge,” Mr. Rieul said.

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