Apple reaches quiet truce over iPhone privacy changes

A privacy notice appears on an iPhone 12 under the new iOS 14.5.1 operating system. Developers of an application have to ask for the user's permission to allow cross-app tracking.

Enlarge / A privacy notice appears on an iPhone 12 under the new iOS 14.5.1 operating system. Developers of an application have to ask for the user’s permission to allow cross-app tracking. (credit: Picture Alliance | Getty Images)

Apple has allowed app developers to collect data from its 1 billion iPhone users for targeted advertising, in an unacknowledged shift that lets companies follow a much looser interpretation of its controversial privacy policy.

In May Apple communicated its privacy changes to the wider public, launching an advert that featured a harassed man whose daily activities were closely monitored by an ever-growing group of strangers. When his iPhone prompted him to “Ask App Not to Track,” he clicked it and they vanished. Apple’s message to potential customers was clear—if you choose an iPhone, you are choosing privacy.

But seven months later, companies including Snap and Facebook have been allowed to keep sharing user-level signals from iPhones, as long as that data is anonymised and aggregated rather than tied to specific user profiles.

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