A new report sheds light on companies aiming to skirt around Apple’s incoming App Tracking Transparency feature

When iOS 14.5 arrives, Apple will finally welcome its App Tracking Transparency (ATT) feature. It has been in the works for quite some time, ruffled a few feathers, but it will soon see the light of day. But some companies are already looking for ways to skirt the feature.

Today, the Wall Street Journal has a report detailing several companies aiming to develop a new tool, based on advertising technology in China, that will gather data from iPhone users aimed at producing targeted advertisements. All of that, without explicitly gaining a user’s confirmation to do so.

The ATT feature is meant specifically to avoid this. Apps and services and websites have been producing targeted ads for years, using user information to get them, without consent for years. Apple’s upcoming feature puts the power back in the user’s hands — or at least attempts to. The ATT feature will give iOS users the ability to say yes or no if they want an app to track them.

This new technology, though, relies on the Chinese Advertising Association identifiers, rather than the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA). Apple has said that the upcoming ATT feature will be a blanket policy, and will be present for all developers and advertisers globally. Apple’s rules and the ATT feature will apply beyond the IDFA, and should cover the CAID identifiers as well.

Apparently many companies have been part of testing this new CAID identifiers. That includes Proctor & Gamble (P&G), which is one of the world’s largest advertisers.

The company has joined forces with dozens of Chinese trade groups and tech firms working with the state-backed China Advertising Association to develop the new technique, which would use technology called device fingerprinting, the people said. Dubbed CAID, the advertising method is being tested through apps and gathers iPhone user data to serve up targeted ads.

Apple’s response to the report is all about the ATT feature’s enforcement, once the feature goes live:

The App Store terms and guidelines apply equally to all developers around the world, including Apple,” an Apple spokesman said. “We believe strongly that users should be asked for their permission before being tracked. Apps that are found to disregard the user’s choice will be rejected.

ByteDance, the parent company of the mega-popular social media platform TikTok, has been part of the testing process as well. This report says that additional companies like Deloitte LLP, Nielsen, and others have been involved as well.

P&G says that it is working with the trade group in China to “deliver useful content consumers want in a way that prioritizes data privacy, transparency, and consent”.

We don’t know when the ATT feature will go live. Apple has suggested it will be when iOS 14.5 launches, which is expected in a couple of weeks at the earliest.