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Google-backed digital ad groups criticize Apple’s new user tracking warning

(Reuters) – A group of European digital advertising associations today criticized Apple’s plans to require apps to seek additional permission from users before tracking them across other apps and websites.

Apple last week unveiled features in the upcoming operating system for iPhones and iPads that will require apps to display a pop-up screen before enabling a form of tracking that is often required to display personal ads.

Sixteen marketing associations, some of which are backed by Facebook and Alphabet Google, blamed Apple for not complying with an advertising industry system to seek user consent under European privacy rules. Apps will now have to ask for permission twice, which increases the risk users will refuse, the associations claimed.

Facebook and Google are the largest among thousands of companies that track consumers online to find out habits and interests and show them relevant ads.

Apple said the new feature aims to give users greater transparency about how their information is used. In training sessions at a developer conference last week, Apple showed that developers can present any number of additional screens in advance to explain why permission is required before triggering pop-ups.

The pop-up states that an app “will have permission to track you across apps and websites owned by other companies”

; and gives the app developer several lines below the main text to explain why the permission is being sought. It is not required before an app seeks access to a numeric identifier that can be used for tracking, and apps only need to secure permission once.

The group of European marketing companies said the pop-up alert and the limited ability to customize it still carry “a high risk of user rejection.”

Apple engineers also said last week that the company will strengthen a free Apple-made tool that uses anonymous, aggregated data to measure whether advertising campaigns work, and which will not trigger the pop-up.

“Because it is designed not to track users, there is no need to ask for permission to track,” said Apple privacy engineer Brandon Van Ryswyk in a video session explaining the measurement tool to developers.

(Reporting by Stephen Nellis and Paresh Dave in San Francisco, editing by Leslie Adler.)

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