Apple to Police Apps That ‘Fingerprint’ Users

Apple will begin cracking down on apps that track users by collecting data from their devices.

“Some APIs … have the potential of being misused to access device signals to try to identify the device or user, also known as fingerprinting,” the tech giant wrote in a recent blog post

“Regardless of whether a user gives your app permission to track, fingerprinting is not allowed. To prevent the misuse of certain APIs that can be used to collect data about users’ devices through fingerprinting, you’ll need to declare the reasons for using these APIs in your app’s privacy manifest.”

Apple says that beginning this fall, developers will have to show why they need to use “required reason” APIs in their apps. The company attached a list of APIs that require approved reasons. Beginning in spring of the next year, developers will need to explain these reasons before they can add their app to Apple Store Connect.

“As part of this process, you’ll need to select one or more approved reasons that accurately reflect how your app uses the API, and your app can only use the API for the reasons you’ve selected,” the blog post said. 

The new policy comes amid Apple’s ongoing fight with developers. Last week, the company was sued by more than 1,500 app developers in Great Britain in a $1 billion lawsuit that accuses Apple of charging an “exploitative” 15-30% commission for in-app sales in the App Store.

In an interview with Reuters, Sean Ennis, who teaches at the Centre for Competition Policy at the University of East Anglia, said Apple’s charges are “excessive,” and only possible due to its monopoly on the distribution of apps onto iPhones and iPads. 

“The charges are unfair in their own right and constitute abusive pricing,” Ennis added. “They harm app developers and also app buyers.”

Apple counters these arguments by asserting that 85% of developers in its store do not pay any commission and that they’re helping developers in Europe get access to customers in 175 nations around the world.

Apple also faces a number of antitrust complaints targeting the company’s ‌App Store ‌policies. The European Commission, France, South Korea, Germany and the Netherlands, have all begun probes into complaints about the ‌App Store‌ and its terms and conditions.