Apple must rein developers in before they make a mockery of ATT

Apple released iOS 14.5 to the world yesterday, bringing with it the App Tracking Transparency (ATT) rules that we’ve been hearing so much about. Those rules mean apps must ask permission before they track a user from one app to another. It’s all about making users aware of which apps are following their activity and giving them the power to prevent it. App makers aren’t happy, and some are already putting the squeeze on.

One app that’s already flouting Apple’s rules is Sky Sports Scores, the app I use to keep track of football – proper football, obviously – scores. It’s run by Sky, the TV company, and is no doubt backed by billions of pounds. But Sky wants that sweet, sweet ad revenue, too. So it’s telling users that they’ll need to start paying for their scores if they don’t hand their data over.

Apple says you can’t do that. Or, at least, Sky is getting very close to crossing the line. It depends on what you’d call an incentive, really.

Here’s what Apple says about ATT and incentives.

There are several prohibited custom-messaging designs that will cause rejection. Some examples are offering incentives, displaying a screen that looks like a request, displaying an image of the alert, and annotating the screen behind the alert (shown below).

Don’t offer incentives for granting the request. You can’t offer people compensation for granting their permission, and you can’t withhold functionality or content or make your app unusable until people allow you to track them.

Whether Sky Scores falls foul of that or not, the fact of the matter is simple – developers will need to be reined in if and when they break these rules. The data collected by ad companies is hugely valuable and developers will try their level best to find a way to coerce and guilt users into giving their permission to be tracked. I suspect the majority of people seeing the screenshot above will tap Allow because they’re being told they’ll have to pay in the future if they don’t.

Now I come to think of it, that isn’t really an incentive at all, is it?

It’s a threat.

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