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Snap explored ways to bypass Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature

Snap, Inc., the creator of Snapchat, has reportedly explored ways to bypass an impending Apple privacy feature in an effort to continue tracking its users, according to a new report.

Apple will soon debut a new iOS 14 feature called App Tracking Transparency (ATT), which requires that apps obtain permission from users before tracking them. The feature has drawn the ire of companies heavily reliant on advertising, like Facebook.

Some Chinese companies have looked at ways to circumvent the privacy changes using third-party data. Snap, the creator of Snapchat, is the largest U.S. company thus far to explore ways of bypassing the restrictions, the Financial Times reported Friday.

Internal documents obtained by the Financial Times show that Snap wanted to gather data from third-party companies to analyze whether users have responded to ad campaigns. The plan focused on cross-referencing that data, which includes IP addresses, against its own information on users to identify and track them. It’s a technique known as “probabilistic matching.”

Snap confirmed to the Financial Times that it has been running a probabilistic matching campaign for several months to “test the impact” of Apple’s new privacy policies. However, Snap maintains that it intended to switch off the program when ATT launches.

Going forward, Snap said it knows it can’t track users without their permission, but suggested that it could harvest data on “cohorts” without breaking the rules.

On Thursday, Apple reportedly sent letters to developers advising them to remove any code that supports probabilistic matching.

China-based technology companies have also been testing methods to bypass ATT. In March, Apple warned Chinese developers who were attempting to circumvent ATT that attempts to track users without permission would result in expulsion from the App Store.

Back in February, Snap warned investors that its revenue could be hurt by the upcoming Apple privacy changes.

The most vocal critic of the feature has been Facebook, which has launched a campaign claiming that ATT would hurt small- and medium-sized businesses. Facebook executives have admitted that the company has “no choice” but to accept the new policies, however.

The ATT privacy feature is expected to launch in iOS 14.5 sometime in the spring.


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