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Apple warns developers to be ready for its new privacy feature to be released any day now

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One of the reasons why the update to iOS 14.5 is so eagerly awaited is the AppTrackingTransparency (ATT) feature. A box will appear on the screen with a message from a third-party app asking an iPhone user for permission to continue tracking him/her in order to send online ads. By default, the iPhone user withholds permission to be tracked across the internet by a third party app. Besides iOS 14.5, the ATT feature will also be found on the iPad with iPadOS 14.5, and with tvOS 14.5.

Apple reminds app developers that the AppTrackingTransparency feature is coming soon with iOS 14.5

Apple posted a reminder to app developers reminding them to “Make sure your apps are ready for iOS 14.5, iPadOS 14.5, and tvOS 14.5. With the upcoming public release, all apps must use the AppTrackingTransparency framework to request the user’s permission to track them or to access their device’s advertising identifier. Unless you receive permission from the user to enable tracking, the device’s advertising identifier value will be all zeros and you may not track them.”

The AppTrackingTransparency is the new feature that made Mark Zuckerberg and his crew at Facebook attack Apple in full page newspaper ads and threaten a lawsuit against Cook & Company. It’s not hard to understand why. Facebook grossed more than $84 billion in 2020 with the vast majority of that money coming from advertisements. Since most analysts expect a huge percentage of iOS users to withhold permission to be tracked, this should lead to lower revenue for Facebook. The latter accused Apple of damaging small businesses by launching the ATT although there might be more users opting-in than expected.

For example, yours truly plans on giving permission to be tracked by third party apps. That’s because unlike most users, this writer considers it convenient to receive third party ads. And permission can always be withdrawn if so desired.

Apple is reminding developers that when they submit their app for review, other forms of tracking done by the app-such as tracking by email or name-must be must be declared in the product page’s App Store Privacy Information section. And the tracking is allowed only if the user gives permission by opting via the AppTrackingTransparency. Apple notes that “You’ll also need to include a purpose string in the system prompt to explain why you’d like to track the user, per App Store Review Guideline 5.1.2(i). These requirements apply to all apps starting with the public release of iOS 14.5, iPadOS 14.5, and tvOS 14.5.”

Developers also need to understand that it remains a violation of the App Store to collect device and usage data in an attempt to create the profile of a user to determine his/her identity. In fact, that violates the Apple Developer Program License Agreement. Speaking of this agreement, Apple recently cited it for the reason to reject several new apps. In its letter to rejected developers, Apple said, “We found in our review that your app collects user and device information to create a unique identifier for the user’s devices. Apps that fingerprint the user’s device in this way are in violation of the Apple Developer Program License Agreement and are not appropriate for the App Store.”

Originally, Apple said that iOS 14.5 would be ready for a spring release. Besides the AppTrackerTransparency feature, it will allow face mask wearing iPhone users to unlock their device through the use of an unlocked Apple Watch. Since the mask blocks Face ID from working and most consider it a pain in the butt to unlock their device using a Passcode, many are looking forward to unlocking their iPhone using the timepiece on their wrist. The update will also add 217 more emoji and some vocal tweaks for Siri.

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