Earlier this week, stories emerged that some China-based ad groups were creating their own smart alternative solutions for the new anti-tracking technology that Apple is bundled with the next versions of iOS 14. Now it seems that Apple is fighting back.
On Thursday, the Financial Times reported that apple sent warnings to at least two Chinese apps that were caught trying to create their own unique identifiers for a given app, something that Apple’s update explicitly prohibits.
The two applications in question were captured using something called China Advertising Association ID (CAID for short), which was developed by the region trade association of the same name by the end of 2020 as a way to continue monitoring and guidance iPhone users long after Apple updates went into effect. The Financial Times first broke the news that some of China’s largest tech companies, such as Baidu, Tencent, and Bytedance, were reportedly running tests to implement the identifier. Together, these three digital giants reportedly control about 54% from China total ad spend.
It’s unclear what Apple’s updates will do with the billions of dollars that translate into spending. Here at the U.S., we know that some of the major players in the ad serving market, notably Facebook, have forecast some kind of significant drop in iOS revenue update, and I have made a public relations spree for the past few months to defend its core business from Apple’s clutches.
We have written a bit on what these updates imply, and why Facebook is on the offensive, in the past, but at the most basic level, the update would simply require the applications to prompt the user consent before using a specific advertising identifier (its so-called IDFA), which is built into your phone. Without access to IDFA, these application developers do not have the ability to track users outside of their own application, which, as you can imagine, is very bad news for companies that do banking. doing exactly that. While some of them have tried to find their own sneaky ways to subvert Apple’s new rules, exist actually some pretty strict guidelines ban almost all of them: no “fingerprints,” Do not hash dataand do not create your own identifiers.
Turns out, that’s what some of these China-based companies were trying to do. TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, for example, uses an ad technology platform called Ocean engine to suck up identifiers like a phone’s IMEI and hardware specifications, which are then used to assign a unique CAID to the phone. If you look at the Terms and privacy for the CAID, it indicates that this identifier is designed to be stored on a server hosted within the Advertising Association, which means that any application that uses the Association’s integrated code could return that identification to market it to whoever is using its application in particular. .
If that sounds like a violation of Apple’s strict guidelines here, it’s because it absolutely is. But like the initial Financial Times points out, inexplicably Apple has not yet cracked down on CAID, or any application that implements it. At least so far, according to the Times, a developer who was caught plugging it into their code was told that Apple discovered that its app “collects user and device information to create a unique identifier for the user’s device,” and gave him two weeks to update his app to “meet the App Store Review Guidelines within 14 days.”
Right now, it’s unclear whether the major players in the mobile app space will cower. While Gizmodo was unable to confirm whether Tencent or Baidu have moved yet, as of this writing, Bytedance developer docs still ready the CAID as an optional identifier if a user’s IDFA is not available.
We reached out to Apple to comment on their app. and will be updated if we get a reply.