Apple has set itself up as the champion of the privacy of their users, much to the discomfort of ad-dependent media all over the internet, who are finding it increasingly difficult to market to Apple’s captive audience of a billion-plus user.

Apple of course runs its own ad business, firstly marketing its own products such as Apple Music to iPhone owners, and secondly being paid to promote apps to iOs owners.

In their own privacy disclosure company revealed that it uses the data of its users for targetted ads, but apparently does not feel this qualifies as tracking.

Apple writes:

Ads that are delivered by Apple’s advertising platform may appear on the App Store, Apple News, and Stocks. Apple’s advertising platform does not track you, meaning that it does not link user or device data collected from our apps with user or device data collected from third parties for targeted advertising or advertising measurement purposes, and does not share user or device data with data brokers.

Contextual Information

Contextual information may be used to serve ads to you, such as:

  • Device Information: Your keyboard language settings, device type, OS version, mobile carrier, and connection type.
  • Device Location: If Location Services Is enabled and you’ve granted permission to the App Store or Apple News apps to access your location, your location may be used to serve you geographically relevant ads. Your precise device location is not stored by Apple’s advertising platform, and profiles are not constructed from this information. To access these settings, go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services.
  • Searches on the App Store: When you search on the App Store, your query may be used to serve you a relevant ad.
  • Apple News and Stocks: The type of story you read may be used to select appropriate ads.

Segments
We create segments, which are groups of people who share similar characteristics and use these groups for delivering targeted ads.
Information about you may be used to determine which segments you’re assigned to, and thus, which ads you receive. To protect your privacy, targeted ads are delivered only if more than 5,000 people meet the targeting criteria.

We may use information such as the following to assign you to segments:

  • Account Information: Your name, address, age and devices registered to your Apple ID account. Information such as your first name in your Apple ID registration page or salutation in your Apple ID account may be used to derive your gender.
  • Downloads, Purchases & Subscriptions: The music, movies, books, TV shows and apps you download, as well as any in-app purchases and subscriptions. We don’t allow targeting based on downloads of a specific app or purchases within a specific app (including subscriptions) from the App Store, unless the targeting is done by that app’s developer.
  • Apple News and Stocks: The topics and categories of the stories you read and the publications you follow, subscribe to or enable notifications from.
  • Advertising: Your interactions with ads delivered by Apple’s advertising platform.

When selecting which ad to display from multiple ads for which you are eligible, we may use some of the above-mentioned information, as well as your App Store browsing activity, to determine which ad is likely to be most relevant to you. App Store browsing activity includes the content and apps you tap and view while browsing the App Store. This information is aggregated across users so that it does not identify you.

Breaking the statement down, firstly Apple’s definition is suspect. Apple appears to suggest tracking means merely connecting disparate information sources together and sharing it with others when in the first instance it means collecting information about a user over a wide surface of interactions.

Apple goes on to explain all the ways it does track users to tailor ads to them, including your location, carrier, keyboard settings, searches, the articles you read, and more.

The segments section, in particular, is very interesting, as it sounds a lot like Google’s FLoC proposal, with users being segmented into profiles, based for example if you live in a desirable part of town or not, and then being marketed against.

Apple appears to suggest that their system is acceptable because it is vertically integrated, but Google could of course say exactly the same thing about their own Adsense network and Chrome browser.

Users do not simply demand privacy for its own sake – they prefer not to have companies create a profile on them so they can discover their weakness and sell them unnecessary stuff. Apple appears more than happy to invade the privacy of its own users, as long as Google and Facebook are excluded from the party.

via Benedict Evans

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