French Watchdog Starts Privacy Probe Into Apple Ads

The French data protection authority is investigating Apple’s advertising tools in response to a complaint from a lobbyist group claiming Apple doesn’t operate a level playing field with iOS app developers when it comes to user privacy. 

On March 9, lobbyist group France Digitale filed a complaint with the French National Commission on Informatics and Liberty (CNIL) alleging that Apple applies privacy policy rules against third-party iOS app developers, that it doesn’t apply against itself. On Tuesday, March 16, CNIL confirmed it was looking into the matter. 

The regulator, which deals with privacy and data rules in France, is starting to examine the allegations, a spokesperson told Bloomberg. It is unknown how long the preliminary investigation will take, but it could lead to a more in-depth probe or requests for Apple to make changes to its systems. 

“We have to do a detailed study of what’s been sent to us” before CNIL can proceed, as it needs to determine if EU data protection or e-privacy rules apply, CNIL spokesman Yohann Brunet advised.

The issue is linked to Apple’s upcoming App Tracking Transparency feature, expected to be implemented in iOS and iPadOS within weeks. The initiative will force app developers to ask permission from users before the app can track the device, which would enable the serving of personalized advertising.