If you’re like me, you don’t really want to be followed. So if an app asks if it can track your iPhone activity across other advertising or data brokerage programs and websites, the answer is almost always ‘no’. If you’re tired of choosing ‘Ask app to track’ over and over again, there is a way to prevent apps from asking questions at all.
Before we get into the importance of blocking tracking in apps and websites, let’s turn it off system-wide right away. While the setting was already available in earlier versions of iOS 14, it wasn’t that useful as developers didn̵
To stop tracking requests in iOS 14.5 and above, navigate to Settings -> Privacy -> Tracking. Here you will see a list of all the apps you have given or denied for permissions tracking, and you can enable and disable these apps on an individual basis as needed.
To disable all future requests, turn off the “Allow apps to track requests” switch at the top of this page. With that setting turned off, most apps on your iPhone won’t be able to track (or don’t want to) your activity on other apps and websites.
If you’ve already granted certain tracking permissions apps to your iPhone, when you turn off Allow apps to track requests, you’ll be asked if “ You want to request apps that you previously allowed to track. follow to stop following? ‘ You can click “Ask apps to stop following” or “Allow apps to continue following” depending on your preference.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about why it’s good to do more than just get rid of annoying popup prompts begging you for tracking privileges.
When an app follows you to other apps and sites, it’s because they try to provide you with more targeted ads. They can also measure your ad responses and actions to adjust how they serve ads. And worst of all, they can share your information with data brokers who use your data and combine it with other information about you to sell as a full package.
Most of the time, apps don’t perform that tracking without your permission. So if you block all apps from asking you if they can track you, apps with tracking requests will try to show you that you are being blocked. At the same time, those apps will be informed that you don’t want to be tracked and that they shouldn’t have access to your iPhone’s advertising ID (which in older iOS versions was managed via the ad restriction switch).
Unfortunately, consent is not a hard and fast rule. According to Apple, some apps try to track you without getting your permission first. Here’s what Apple’s developer site said before iOS 14.5:
In some cases, Apple’s app developer does not need to ask for your permission. The app developer may combine information about you or your device without your consent for targeted advertising or ad measurement purposes if the developer does so exclusively on your device and does not transmit the information from your device in a way that identifies you.
In addition, without your consent, the app developer may share information about you or your device with data brokers for fraud detection or prevention or security purposes. However, the data broker may only perform the fraud detection or prevention or security services on behalf of the app developer, which means that the data broker cannot use the information about you or your device for any other purpose.
After iOS 14.5 came out, the document has been updated to add another copy:
The following use cases are not considered tracking and do not require user consent through the AppTrackingTransparency framework:
- When user or device data from your app is associated with third party data only on the user’s device and not sent from the device in a way that identifies the user or device.
- When the data broker with whom you share data uses the data solely for fraud detection, fraud prevention or security purposes. For example, by only using a data broker to prevent credit card fraud.
- Where the data broker is a consumer information agency and the data is shared with them for (1) reporting a consumer’s creditworthiness, or (2) obtaining information about a consumer’s creditworthiness for the specific purpose of making a credit determination .
Those reasons seem understandable as long as the developers, data brokers and credit rating agencies follow the rules outlined. But somehow you may never know. You can view the detailed privacy information that developers have been required to submit to their apps in the App Store since iOS 14.3, which will give you a good idea of how each app collects data.
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