ByteDance, TikTok’s owner; Tencent; and other tech giants in China are testing a tool to bypass Apple’s new privacy rules and continue to track iPhone users without their consent. The feature in question here is the App Tracking Transparency privacy protection capability.
According to a new report by the Financial Times, the state-backed China Advertising Association, which has 2,000 members, launched a new way to track and identify iPhone users called CAID. This system is being tested by tech companies and advertisers in the country.
ByteDance, the owner of the social video app TikTok, referred to CAID in an 11-page guide to app developers obtained by the Financial Times, suggesting that advertisers “can use the CAID as a substitute if the user’s IDFA is unavailable.”
IDFA is a system used by Apple to see who clicks on ads and which apps are downloaded. In the coming weeks, Apple will give users more privacy, and every app will have to ask if the user wants to be tracked for a better ad experience.
People close to Tencent and ByteDance confirmed the companies were testing the system, but both companies declined to comment to the FT‘s report.
Apple, on the record, says it won’t grant any exceptions.
“The App Store terms and guidelines apply equally to all developers around the world, including Apple. We believe strongly that users should be asked for their permission before being tracked. Apps that are found to disregard the user’s choice will be rejected.”
But two sources cited by the Financial Times who are familiar with the matter believe that if Apple takes action, it will be a problem for the company in China.
Tech analyst Zach Edwards says:
“They can’t ban every app in China. If they did it would effectively trigger a series of actions that would get Apple kicked out of China.”
Rich Bishop, chief executive of AppInChina, a leading publisher of international software in China, suggests to the Financial Times that Apple might “‘make an exception” because tech companies and the government are so “closely aligned.”
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