Researchers Find App Tracking Transparency Reduces Financial Fraud (PDF)

In digging around the website of the National Bureau of Economic Research for that last post, I stumbled across a working paper entitled “Consumer Surveillance and Financial Fraud” (PDF) by Bo Bian, Michaela Pagel, and Huan Tang. These researchers used Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature — and the lack of a similar feature on Android phones — to calculate its potential effect on fraud in the United States:

[…] Our results demonstrate that limiting the tracking and sharing of personal information has a significant impact on reducing financial fraud. Specifically, our analysis of CFPB complaints shows that a 10% increase in the share of Apple users in a zip code leads to a 2.63% reduction in the number of financial fraud complaints. Accounting for the 82% opt-out rate of ATT, this translates to a 3.21% reduction in financial fraud complaints. We also establish that areas with high and low iOS share experience similar pre-treatment trends in the likelihood and number of financial fraud complaints.


[…] We estimate that the reduction in tracking reduces money lost in all complaints by 4.7% and money lost reported in internet and data security complaints by 40.1%.

A 3% reduction in fraud complaints may not sound like much, but an estimated 40% cut in internet-based losses is quite something. The math in this paper is way beyond me, so I cannot vouch for the accuracy of its findings. Still, I think it is an interesting approach.