Apple Wins Privacy Push in China

Published · Jul 05, 2021

An attempt by Chinese tech companies, including Baidu, Tencent, and TikTok parent ByteDance, to dodge Apple’s privacy policy has been scuppered.

Developed and openly tested over this past year, a piece of tech called CAID (Chinese Advertising ID) would allow apps to track iOS users for advertising purposes. CAID would remain active even if people refused to let an app access Apple’s official IDFA (identifier for advertisers).

Put in a difficult position, Apple had to choose between allowing the implementation of CAID and compromising its new commitment to privacy or blocking it and risking tension with Beijing.

In response to CAID going live, Apple made its stance clear by blocking updates to apps caught implementing it. Its consumer privacy focus decidedly reaffirmed. Following this, support for CAID lost ground.

In a comment, Alex Bauer, head of product marketing at Branch, said Apple “seems to have reasserted control over the situation before the consortium gained any real momentum.”

While CAID was headed by state-backed institutions (the Chinese Advertising Association and the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology), it is unclear whether the parties involved had the full backing of Beijing.

On the opposite end, the spokespersons of some of the companies involved said they were under the impression Apple approved of the project—somewhat contradictory to Apple’s shift towards user choice-based privacy.

Advertising and User Choice

Advertising practices that rely on tracking and user data are coming under increased scrutiny. Apple is taking the “opt-in” path, which is similar to the one advanced by the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).

People must be allowed to opt in to being tracked rather than having to opt out or being forced to accept tracking to access a website/application.

Companies that go against such protections are already facing penalties.

Protections are still lacking in many regions, however. As such, consumers who are cagey about privacy have begun seeking commercial solutions, such as VPNs, to safeguard their online security.

Garan van Rensburg
Garan van Rensburg

Garan is a writer interested in how tech reshapes the environment, and how the environment reshapes tech. You'll usually find him inoculating against future shock and arguing with bots.