Here is an excerpt from the rejection letter some developers told Forbes they received:
Guideline 5.1.2 – Legal – Privacy – Data usage and sharing
We found in our review that your app collects user and device information to create a unique identifier for the user’s devices. Apps that fingerprint the user’s device in this manner violate the license agreement for the Apple Developer Program and are not appropriate for the App Store.
In particular, your app uses algorithmically converted device and usage data to create a unique identifier to track the user. The device information collected by your app can contain any of the following: defaultManager, NSLocaleCollationIdentifier, NSLocaleCountryCode, NSLocaleQuotationEndDelimiterKey and NSLocaleGroupingSeparator.
Pursuant to Section 3.3.9 of the Apple Developer Software License Agreement, neither you nor the App may use any permanent, device-based identifier or data derived therefrom to uniquely identify a device.
This message to developers makes it clear that affected apps are breaking because they are using a technique that seeks to track the user without consent (device fingerprint). A few months ago, Apple announced plans to implement “App Tracking Transparency”, which will require apps to engage users to track them using IDFAs, a common tracking tool that is important for many targeted advertising techniques. This change caused a stir among Facebook and other companies that rely on this type of tracking to maximize advertising revenue. But it is also clear that transparency in app tracking means that apps that try not to track users in one way or another, IDFA or otherwise, will be rejected. Device fingerprints have often been used as an alternative to IDFA when users or platforms prevent the use of the latter.
Mobile marketing analyst Eric Seufert told Forbes that many thousands of apps could be rejected because, for at least some, the breach appears to be caused by an SDK from mobile analytics company Adjust; the company claims that the SDK is used in more than 50,000 apps. Adjust has updated the SDK to remove at least some of the functionality violations, but not all developers use the latest version.
Why this means iOS 14.5 is just around the corner
Although Apple has already updated the developer’s guidelines to reflect the new tracking policy recently, the company has previously said that App Tracking Transparency would be enforced in the App Store, starting with the release of iOS 14.5 sometime this spring. The fact that apps are already being rejected on this basis today is a compelling case that several other Apple features and products are just days away now.
iOS 14.5 (and its close sibling iPadOS 14.5, which will almost certainly launch on the same day as the iPhone software) is expected to be a major feature update to the mobile operating system. Based on what we’ve seen in recent beta, iOS 14.5 includes a feature that allows you to unlock Face ID devices with a synced Apple Watch while wearing a protective mask, many changes and adjustments to Siri, global support for dual-SIM 5G (previously only seen in China), support for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X | S-controllers, hundreds of new emoji, and the aforementioned ad tracking change, among others.
Product launches may also be imminent
When Apple launches new hardware products, they are usually timed with new versions of the operating systems these products run – for example, an updated version of iOS usually lands the same week as a new iPhone model is shipped.
Reports from normally reliable sources have repeatedly predicted that a new iPad Pro model will be announced by Apple sometime in the spring. Based on history and some reports, it looked like it would happen at the end of March, but this expected time frame came and went. However, the product is likely to arrive soon, which means that an event sometime in April seems likely.
For that reason, the fact that Apple is now starting to enforce this iOS 14.5-related rule with app developers may add evidence that a new iPad is coming soon.
Apple is also expected to announce several new, advanced Macs that will release Intel processors in favor of Apple Silicon this year, and one or more of them may be announced this spring. Furthermore, leaks and rumors continue to claim that Apple will soon introduce a Tile competitor with AR features, although several rumored launch windows for that product have come and gone in the last couple of years.
Apple is also known for working with some kind of mixed reality headset, most likely primarily focused on augmented reality experiences. Some insiders have said the product may be announced this year, although we expect Apple to announce a whole new category like the one at the company’s developer conference in June instead of a smaller, consumer-oriented spring product launch event. And it is still possible that the announcement of mixed headsets is longer silent.