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How Apple’s Privacy Changes Could Affect Its App Store

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Key Takeaways

  • Apple is now rejecting apps that don’t meet its privacy guidelines for iOS 14.5.
  • Apple’s new privacy rules will give users more control over how their data is harvested and tracked by apps.
  • Experts say Apple’s privacy changes could lead to more up-front costs for downloading and installing apps.
Apple is starting to reject apps that fail to meet the new privacy guidelines it’s launching with iOS 14.5, a move experts say could lead to a complete shake-up of the App Store.

Apple has been very clear that it plans to reshape how applications gather user data with iOS 14.5, and is now taking steps to put these new guidelines into practice. Multiple developers reportedly have begun to receive notices that their apps have been rejected from the app store because they don’t meet all of the new requirements. Because Apple is taking such control over data collection, experts say it could lead to major changes in how you get new apps.

“Many developers are going to have to make a quick decision. They can either comply or they can try to fly under the radar and hope that they don’t get caught,” Dave Hatter, a cybersecurity leader, told Lifewire on a call.  “For those that do comply, they’re going to need to sit down and figure out how they can monetize their app.”

Data Sells 

The AppTrackingTransparency feature—sometimes referred to as ATT—is Apple’s answer to the ongoing problems with data collection that smartphone users have been experiencing for years now. With the release of iOS 14.5, the company now requires all app developers to include a message explicitly asking permission to track the way users use their apps, and whether or not their data can be tracked across other apps.

It’s a huge move in the ongoing fight to make user privacy a priority in a world where data has become one of the most important commodities. Over the past few months we’ve seen many companies making pushes to provide better user privacy options, including Google’s own move away from individual ad tracking in its Chrome web browser. With Apple’s new changes, though, the way developers make money from their apps could change completely. That, in turn, could change how you access those same apps

Apple
“You are the product,” Hatter explained. “If you aren’t paying with money, you’re not the customer.” 

Hatter says data collection is one of the biggest ways app developers make money. When users are given the option to not share their data, it could lead to more developers pushing for upfront purchases of their apps, or even offering monthly subscriptions to make up for the income lost from data harvesting.

You also could see some developers choosing to forego developing for the App Store in favor of letting others figure out how to make it work in the immediate months ahead.

Cause for Concern
While Hatter sees the move as a step forward, others see it as the precursor to a complete collapse of how digital markets work. Companies like Facebook have been lobbying hard against these changes, even going so far as to call them anticompetitive, and claim they will hurt small businesses.



In response to this, Apple has claimed that the new guidelines and policies being put into place aren’t designed to completely cut off tracking users. Instead, they’re intended to make users more aware of what data they’re sharing, then give them the choice to allow or disallow data collection.

With all this in mind, Hatter warn that we could see a major shake up of how apps are utilized on iPhones going forward. The rules Apple is putting into place could fundamentally change how advertisers are able to push content to users. Since companies like Facebook rely heavily on advertisements for revenue—over 97% of Facebook’s global revenue was generated from advertising in 2020, according to Statista—it makes sense for the company to be worried about the ramifications these changes bring.

“If you aren’t paying with money, you’re not the customer.”
Of course, with big changes like this, there are always reasons to be cautious, though Hatter says it remains unclear how things will turn out when Apple starts to really enforce the new policies.

“I’m very interested [in seeing] how this all plays out in the coming months,” he said. “It’s a huge win for the consumer. But, is it going to have the devastating impact that some folks like Facebook claim? I don’t know. I’m not sure the average person is still really that worried about this stuff.”

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