App Developers in China Are Testing an IDFA ‘Substitute’ for Tracking Users Without Consent

Patrick McGee and Yuan Yang, Financial Times:

Apple is expected to update its smartphones in the coming weeks so that applications that want to gather tracking data will have to ask users for permission. Until now apps have been able to use Apple’s IDFA system to see when users click on ads and which apps they download.


In response, the state-backed China Advertising Association, which has 2,000 members, has launched a new way to track and identify iPhone users called CAID, which is being widely tested by tech companies and advertisers in the country.

ByteDance, the owner of the social video app TikTok, referred to CAID in an 11-page guide to app developers obtained by the Financial Times, suggesting that advertisers “can use the CAID as a substitute if the user’s IDFA is unavailable”.

Sure will be interesting to see Apple’s response to this. This article says that Apple is aware of CAID, that it has “so far turned a blind eye to its use” — possibly because the new IDFA policies have yet to be implemented — and also that “App Store terms and guidelines apply equally to all developers around the world”. I expect no exceptions will be allowed, and I will be disappointed if this is permitted on a technicality if it waters down the intent of these policies so as to avoid some kind of conflict with major developers in China.