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5 Jan, 2023
2 min time to read

The company collected iPhone owners' data for targeted advertisements without obtaining proper consent.

On Wednesday, France's data protection authority, CNIL, issued a fine of €8 million (about $8.5 million) to Apple for unlawfully collecting data from iPhone users for targeted advertising without obtaining proper consent. This penalty is unusual for Apple, which has faced fewer legal consequences for privacy violations compared to other major technology companies.

Despite the company's widespread advertising campaign that positions the iPhone as a champion of privacy with slogans like "Privacy. That's iPhone," this fine from the CNIL adds to the growing evidence that Apple may not be as committed to protecting user privacy as it claims.

Apple has been fined by the French National Data Protection Commission (CNIL) for failing to obtain the consent of French iPhone users before using identifiers for advertising purposes in its iOS 14.6 version. The fine specifically refers to search ads in the App Store.

Apple is known more for its technology products than its advertising, but that may change soon. According to analytics firm Insider Intelligence, Apple's advertising business is expected to bring in around $5.4 billion this year. The company displays ads on various services, such as the App Store, and there are rumors that it may also bring ads to Apple TV. This ad revenue is predicted to increase significantly in the near future.

Apple's ads are often targeted and are shown to users with their consent. However, the company ran into trouble with the French data protection authority, CNIL, over its Personalized Advertising privacy setting in iPhones running iOS 14.6 and below. This setting was turned on by default and required users to manually turn it off if they wanted to protect their information, which violated EU privacy law. Later versions of the iPhone operating system fixed this issue by presenting users with a prompt before collecting advertising data.

As Apple continues to grow its advertising business, it is facing criticism for its privacy practices. A recent investigation found that the company collects analytics data even when the user has disabled the analytics privacy setting. Apple is currently facing a class action lawsuit over this issue, and Nicolas Rieul, president of French digital marketing trade group Alliance Digitale, has stated that his organization is also pushing for regulatory action from the CNIL.

Apple was recently fined 8 million euros by the CNIL for these privacy violations, which is a relatively small amount for a company that makes billions in advertising revenue alone and is so financially successful that it lost $1 trillion in market value in a single year, making it only the second company in history to do so. The fine could have been higher, but Apple's European headquarters are in Ireland, not France, so the CNIL had a smaller target to pursue.