Apple's App Tracking Transparency is a fairy tale


Apple has integrated "Application Tracking Management" (ATT from App Tracking Transparency) for the first time in iOS 14.5.

The new feature is supposed to give users options for transparency of monitoring by third-party applications. Sounds like a very important step in protecting users' privacy.
apple privacy

But here a question arises: How efficient is the ATT function. Two developers took a look after 5 months of use.

For the record, Application Tracking Manager (ATT) was first released by Apple in April 2021 with iOS 14.5. The ATT feature gives users options for more transparency in monitoring by third-party applications. Users can choose whether monitoring is allowed from each application separately.

The ATT feature has been praised by many as a step in protecting users' privacy.

But five months after its release, former Apple developers Johnny Lin and Sean Halloran tried out ten of the App Store's top apps. They wanted to see if ATT stopped monitoring. To do this, they used the open source application Lockdown Privacy.

The application promises to block trackers, ads and malware - from all applications on a device. So for ATT to work as promised by Apple, the Lockdown Privacy app should not rule anything out.

However, the test results were disappointing.

Using the Lockdown Privacy app and manual tests, the security researchers found that the App Tracking Transparency feature had no effect on the total number of active third-party trackers and had little effect on the total number of third-party tracking attempts.

In addition, the two security researchers confirmed that the trackers were able to obtain detailed personal data or device data in almost all cases. ATT was functionally useless and could not stop third-party tracking, even when users explicitly select "Ask App Not To Track".

Details can be read in the post Study: Effectiveness of Apple's App Tracking Transparency published on September 22, 2021.

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