What’s With Apple’s New App Tracking Transparency Feature for iPhones?
If you have an iPhone, you’ve probably noticed a new pop-up appearing in apps since the iOS 14.5 update. The prompt is part of Apple’s new push for mobile app tracking transparency, which aims to give you more control over how companies use your data. It might sound like boring geek talk, but this update is actually a pretty big deal – even if you’re not tech-savvy.
The pop-up that arrived with this update normally says something scary like ‘Allow [app] to track your activity across other companies’ apps and websites?’ and lets you choose to give the green light or give them the cold shoulder.
Mobile app tracking transparency: What it means
App tracking transparency, or ATT for short, is a new feature that gives you more protection from unwanted tracking. App developers can always track what you do within their app, but they also like to see what you do outside their app – like how you interact with other apps and websites. ATT forces them to ask for your permission before they do this extra tracking, with the option to give you a quick explanation as to why they want to do it.
Why apps might ask to track you
There are a bunch of reasons an app may ask to track you, some of them are more legit – and less evil – than they seem. For example, apps like GrabFood will ask to track your location to show nearby restaurants, while weather apps will use it to give you the most accurate daily report.
But some app tracking collects data on things like your web searches and app downloads to give marketers a better idea of how to target you with advertising. This kind of app tracking is rarely necessary for the app to function, so be sure to carefully read the company’s explanation when they ask to track you.
How it works
Every Apple iPhone carries a unique identifier that collects info on what you do within apps and websites, and advertisers use this to track your habits and target you with relevant ads. ATT blocks developers from accessing your iPhone’s identifier unless you give them permission, which is why you’ve started seeing some of these new pop-ups when you open certain apps.
There’s no secret way to turn on ATT or anything like that: all you need to do is update your iPhone to iOS 14.5 or later. From there, you can go about your usual business until you see the pop-up in an app, at which point you can decide whether or not to let them track you outside the app.
For example, Facebook is free to track whatever you do within their app, but they need your permission to see other things on your iPhone, like your recent product searches on Google. Remember that some companies own multiple apps: in Facebook’s case, that covers Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger and a bunch of others.
How to turn off tracking for every app
If you find yourself tapping ‘Ask app not to track’ every time the prompt shows up, you’ll be chuffed to know there’s a way to turn it off across the board. Open Settings and tap Privacy, then Tracking. You can toggle the switch at the top to automatically deny any app that asks to track your activity across other apps and websites. Turning it on doesn’t give them a free pass, but they’ll be able to ask for your permission.
You’ll also notice a list of apps underneath the main switch. Here, you can toggle this type of app tracking on and off for each individual app. This comes in handy if you ever change your mind, bumped ‘Allow’ by accident or just want to double-check every once in a while.
We’re loving this new feature so far!
Take transparency up a notch
Now that you’re enjoying more transparency when using your iPhone, why not take this approach with your telco too? Our SIM-only plans and phone combo plans take out the guesswork with transparent billing, no lock-in contracts and zero nasty surprises. Switch add-ons in and out whenever you like through the app and get more bang for your buck every month. Talk about a no brainer!
Carrie is a problem-solving adventurer at Circles.Life. While she’s off-duty, she wears many other hats: does photography that #SparkTheOrdinary at @carriesimitaiji, writes on her lifestyle blog carriesim.com, and spread body positivity on her Instagram account @carriesim.