Apple has finally launched the controversial App Tracking Transparency feature, which enables iPhone and iPad users choose whether third-party apps can track their activity outside of the app.
The feature, which has met huge resistance from the likes of Facebook, belatedly arrives within the iOS 14.5 update and gives users control over which apps they’ll allow to follow their activity on the web or within other apps.
Apple had previously delayed the feature after an outcry from stakeholders who worry about the affect on ad revenue for businesses large and small. Now App Tracking Transparency is here, apps will still be able to track users for targeted advertising, it’s just now they’ll have to ask permission from them first.
Apple says on its website: “App Tracking Transparency requires apps to get the user’s permission before tracking their data across apps or websites owned by other companies for advertising, or sharing their data with data brokers. Apps can prompt users for permission, and in Settings, users will be able to see which apps have requested permission to track so they can make changes to their choice at any time.”
So how will it work? Well after installing iOS 14.5, iPhone, iPad and Apple TV owners (via tvOS 14.5) will begin receiving notifications the next time they open the app. The notifications are similar to those which ask permission to track location, use the camera and other privacy focused settings.
“Allow *app name* to track your activities across other companies’ apps and websites. Your data can be used to measure advertising efficiency,” the notification reads.
Users will then have two options: “Ask App Not To Track”, or “Allow”. As with similar tools made available for Apple’s Safari desktop browser, there’s a reason why the option is “ask not to track” rather than “deny tracking”. Despite the request, some sites ignore the request and do it anyway.
Apple says some tracking can be helpful, such as the way your location is used to surface discounts from nearby stores. However, it says some apps are taking more data than they should and are sharing it with third-parties. Apple says these ‘data brokers’ are able to build digital profiles of users that can influence how they spend their money and even the decisions they make.
So it’s is giving users more choice to reject the practice. Conversely, if those users are happy with how the web has always worked, they can continue to allow apps to track them. The company explains the feature in the video below.