Apple under probe in Italy over alleged data privacy rules misconduct

Apple brand logo is seen at the official opening of the new Apple Store Via Del Corso, on May 27, 2021, in Rome, Italy.
(Image credit: Photo by Antonio Masiello/Getty Images)

After temporarily banning ChatGPT and provoking a surge in VPN services downloads, another big tech firm is now under scrutiny in Italy.  

This time, it's Apple getting into trouble, over allegedly abusing its market dominance against third-party app developers. 

Specifically, Italy's antitrust watchdog AGCM accuses the US tech giant of applying more restrictive and disadvantageous data privacy policies to non-Apple apps since April 2021. An investigation to probe such allegations is now open.

Italy's probe into Apple's ATT abuses

"The different treatment is mainly based on the characteristics of the prompt that appears to users to acquire consent to the tracking of their 'navigation' data on the web, and on the tools adopted to measure the effectiveness of advertising campaigns," wrote Italy's Competition Garante in a press release.

The agency explained that only Apple competitors are required to display the prompt to asking user consent for tracking in more relevant position compared to the one to deny the practice. This is also reported to employ misleading language about the online tracking activities. 

Not just privacy issues, third-party developers appear also to be disadvantaged for the quality and details that Apple gives them out about their ad campaigns.

"Apple’s alleged discriminatory conduct may cause a drop in advertising revenue from third-party advertisers, to the benefit of its commercial division; reduce entry and/or prevent competitors from remaining in the app development and distribution market; benefit their own apps and, consequently, mobile devices and the Apple iOS operating system."  

This picture taken on April 27, 2023 in Toulouse, southwestern France, shows a screen displaying the Apple logo and the European flag.

(Image credit: LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP via Getty Images)

As Reuters reported, the US giant has rejected such allegations arguing that it imposes the same privacy rules to all developers, including Apple itself. "We will continue to engage constructively with the AGCM to address any of their questions," it added.

However, Apple isn't the first time to be at the center of antitrust investigations in Europe.

Since the company launched its App Tracking Transparency (ATT) feature two years ago—around the same time the alleged misconduct began—a number of complaints  and probes have been filed over alleged abuses.

In March 2021, it was a French startup lobby group to raise the alarm over Apple's privacy dishonesty for then failing to get the support of the country's antitrust watchdog. Similar critics on Apple's ATT practices were also raised in Germany and Poland, while in the same year, the UK raised concerns over the growing dominance of Apple's market power overall.

Whatever the outcomes coming from Italy's investigation would be, it's clear that Apple is facing growing scrutiny in Europe - something likely to continue with the Digital Markets Act.  

Chiara Castro
Senior Staff Writer

Chiara is a multimedia journalist committed to covering stories to help promote the rights and denounce the abuses of the digital side of life—wherever cybersecurity, markets and politics tangle up. She mainly writes news, interviews and analysis on data privacy, online censorship, digital rights, cybercrime, and security software, with a special focus on VPNs, for TechRadar Pro, TechRadar and Tom’s Guide. Got a story, tip-off or something tech-interesting to say? Reach out to