France: Apple 1, trackers 0

From the Wall Street Journal’s “Apple Scores Legal Win in France Over App-Privacy Changes” ($) posted Wednesday:

France’s competition regulator rejected a plea from advertising companies and publishers to block Apple Inc.’s AAPL 1.27% plan to restrict tracking of individuals’ mobile-app usage.

In a potential blow to smaller companies hoping to block big-tech rivals’ privacy initiatives on antitrust grounds, the French regulator on Wednesday said that Apple’s plan to require apps to obtain consent from users to track them “doesn’t appear to be abusive.”

“We can’t intervene just because there might be a negative impact for companies in the ecosystem,” said Isabelle de Silva, head of France’s competition authority, at a press conference. “At this stage, we haven’t found flagrant examples of discrimination.”

The authority said, however, that it plans to pursue an in-depth investigation to determine whether Apple’s changes could be regarded as “self-preferencing” by imposing stricter rules on third-party apps than it does on itself. That investigation could stretch to next year, Ms. de Silva said…

In her press conference, Ms. de Silva said that dominant companies have the right to set rules for their services, so long as those rules aren’t anticompetitive or applied unfairly.

My take: Europeans tends to be more privacy protective than Americans.

9 Comments

  1. David Emery said:
    The ‘preferential treatment’ concern is the only one that seems to me to have any moral validity. Not sure I can comment on ‘legal validity’, but the legal briefs arguing against “user opt-in” I’ve read sure feel like a stretch to me.

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    March 17, 2021
  2. Fred Stein said:
    But where this phrase come from, ” smaller companies hoping to block big-tech rivals…”?

    Isn’t the chief proponent, Facebook, a big tech company?

    And if smaller companies are impacted, does their small size give them special privilege to our data without asking us?

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    March 17, 2021
  3. Romeo A Esparrago Jr said:
    Small or not, companies can develop browser based apps for iOS that will circumvent the protections Apple provides via its App Store. Same if sideloading apps into a jail-broken iOS device. No thanks.

    And on the MacOS side, I’ve downloaded a few native Mac apps to my personal-use Mac Mini by downloading straight from Safari, not from the App Store. I trust those companies but still …

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    March 17, 2021
    • David Emery said:
      Well, there’s 2 kinds of apps you download to a Mac from Safari. The safe ones have their code signed by an Apple-approved signing certificate. That makes sure that the app at least was developed by someone who went through the rigamarole of getting XCode and signing their application (and makes sure you’re not getting a counterfeit.) The other kind has no signed certificate, and that’s definitely “at your own risk.” I’ve done that a few times to get some open source applications/utilities, but usually after a careful examination of where I’m getting the code. You have to override the Apple security settings to run that kind of application.

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      March 17, 2021
  4. Kirk DeBernardi said:
    Apple is simply providing users a choice.

    Those who lead a life of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) can choose.

    Those who fear being tracked can choose.

    Isn’t that the best situation for Apple to offer their customers?

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    March 17, 2021
    • Gregg Thurman said:
      Yes, and legally sound as the French decision shows. Preferential treatment is harder to prove.

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      March 17, 2021
      • David Emery said:
        Well, Apple has not done itself any favors recently. For example, have they produced the “privacy guides” for their own Apps? And there are the rules that prohibit direct competitors, which have only recently been weakened or removed. Search results on the App Store are another potential flashpoint.

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        March 17, 2021

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