2023 was off to a strong start for the mobile industry. TikTok snagged the “most downloaded app of the year” title and governments are starting to strike fines and lawsuits onto the tech world.
The EU asked Meta to change its approach to ad personalization
One of the biggest news of the month was Meta being fined $414 million by the European Union privacy regulators (Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, DPC). This fine comes with the decision that Meta violated EU user privacy laws with their targeted ads through both Facebook and Instagram.
This ruling states that Meta shouldn’t require users to agree to personalized ads based on their online activities. This could drastically limit the data that Meta can access to sell such ads.
For the DPC, Meta provided “insufficient clarity as to what processing operations were being carried out on their personal data”, meaning it was illegally forcing European users to accept personalized ads across Facebook or Instagram or they wouldn’t be able to use their platforms.
Meta said it disagreed with DPC’s ruling and was planning to appeal the decision. Which means that, should the appeal fall through, Meta will need to give users the choice of whether they want their data used for targeted advertising or not. This would be Meta’s equivalent of an ATT, and users refusing tracking would lead to Meta not being able to use its first-party data to target users with ads.
That would bring a definite blow to Meta’s ad business, the social media giant received a total of $15.3 billion in ad revenue collectively from the UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy in 2022. If enough people opted out, Meta’s ad prices and efficiency would drop. More so, decreased access to consumer data is already marketers’ biggest concern for 2023.
The DPC gave Meta 3 months to bring its data processing operations into compliance for its 408 million European users.
Apple will now explain why apps are removed from the App Store
Apple promised to offer more details as to why some apps were removed from the App Store. Petitioners have asked why certain religious apps were banned in China in late 2021 and activists claimed that keeping the decision-making process secret threatened freedom of expression in certain countries.
Apple will now provide investors with more details about removed apps in its transparency report. The report only showed how many apps each country had requested to be removed, if it was based on legal grounds and if Apple had complied. Now, it will include a breakdown by category, the legal basis of removal requests from governments, and how many apps were removed by Apple for violating App Store rules or developer license guidelines by country.
TikTok was the most downloaded app worldwide in 2022
No surprises here, TikTok was on top of the downloads charts for most of the year and it nagged the 1st spot as the most downloaded app of 2022, followed by Instagram. CapCut, another ByteDance app related to TikTok (it’s the editing app that goes with the video social network) is in 4th place.
In the meantime, TikTok’s advertising platform keeps rising. With lower rates than its competitors and a good engagement rate, advertisers are fleeing to the Chinese app.
However, EU regulators are already starting to issue warnings to TikTok, pushing for updates and reminding them of the imminent arrival of the DSA and the DMA.
Spotify wants the EU to take action against Apple
Spotify, joined by other media companies, addressed a joint industry letter to the European Commission, urging them to take action against Apple for unfair and anticompetitive practices.
Calling Apple’s behavior abusive, Spotify is asking the EU to take action to protect both innovation and European consumers’ welfare. According to the signatories, Apple is abusing its market power to disadvantage its rivals, promote its apps first as well as abuse its power through the famous 30% commission.
The letter was signed by Basecamp, Deezer, Proton, Schibsted, Spotify, European Publishers Council, France Digitale, and News Media Europe.
Google to allow third-party app stores in the Indian Play Store
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has issued a new ruling that requires Google to host third-party app stores on the Play Store and forbids the firm from restricting sideloading in any way. This ruling was issued on January 24 and Google was given a week to implement the required changes on India’s Play Store.
Playtika offers to buy Rovio
In a surprise move, Playtika offered $813 million to buy Finnish mobile game studio Rovio. After a first offer of 8.5€ per share which was rejected by Rovio, Playtika submitted an improved offer with a 55% premium over the closing price of Rovio’s shares on the Helsinki Stock Exchange on January 18th.
Playtika stated that its plan was to leverage Rovio’s well-known brand.
Meanwhile, Metacore (the company behind Merge Mansion) is trying to give a second chance to Everdale, a mobile game that was shelved by Supercell for insufficient results.
Instagram promises to lay off video (a little)
During one of his weekly Q&A, Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, admitted that the platform had focused a bit too much on video and that things should balance out between photos and videos in 2023.
He said “I think we were overfocused on video in 2022 and pushed ranking too far, and basically showed too many videos and not enough photos. We’ve since balanced, so things like how often someone likes photos versus videos, and how often someone comments on photos versus videos, are roughly equal, which is a good sign that things are balanced.”
Instagram’s users have been complaining for months about the strong push to video on the platform, clearly missing the app’s early days when it was simply a photo-sharing app.
About this month’s tech fines and lawsuits
The year started off strong for some people, with a lot of fines and lawsuits happening in the mobile world. Lucky for you, we’ve prepared a small recap to keep you up to speed!
- Google is being sued by the US’ Justice Department and several states for allegedly unlawfully monopolizing the way ads are served online by excluding competitors
- Apple accused of ‘systematic violations’ of user privacy in new class action lawsuit
- The French Data Protection Authority (CNIL) gave Apple a €8M fine for collecting user data by default to show personalized advertisements on the App Store
- The Irish DCP (Data Protection Committee) fined WhatsApp €5,5M for its mishandling of consumer’s private data
- The French Data Protection Authority (CNIL) gave TikTok a €5M fine for its mishandling of consumer’s private data
- The French Data Protection Authority (CNIL) gave Voodoo a €3M fine for tracking users without their consent