French antitrust watchdog issues statement of objection over Apple app tracking

(Reuters) – France’s antitrust watchdog on Tuesday said it had issued a statement of objection against Apple (AAPL.O), citing concerns the U.S. technology company could have used “discriminatory and non-transparent conditions” for using user data for advertising purposes on iPhones.

The statement triggers a proper antitrust procedure during which the company will be able to express its point of view, the watchdog said.

Four French online advertising industry groups filed an antitrust complaint in 2020 against Apple over changes the company made to privacy features when it started to ask iPhone owners whether they were ready to allow apps to gather data used to define and send targeted ads.

The mechanism “gives users more control by requiring all apps to ask permission before tracking them,” Apple said in an e-mailed statement, adding that it will “continue to engage constructively” with the French antitrust regulator.

The four associations – IAB France, MMAF, SRI and UDECAM – said the changes brought by Apple did not meet European Union privacy rules, which Apple denies.

The feature lead to revenue declines for publishers, industry lobby groups said.

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