Mobile app developers can collect data on iPhone owners and then share this information with companies to aid in targeted advertising. Users can disable such tracking if they regulate the settings of every app they buy, but they would need to proactively do so.
Soon, instead of phone owners having to go to each downloaded app and disable data tracking, they will be asked by developers for their permission outright.
According to Apple, the new opt-in requirement, called App Tracking Transparency, will make apps get the user’s permission before tracking their data across apps or websites owned by other companies.
Users will be able to check which apps have requested tracking permission in the settings section.
It is no secret that advertisers use the collected personal information of users in order to optimise their sales and marketing strategies.
“On average apps include six 'trackers' from other companies, which have the sole purpose of collecting and tracking people and their personal information. Data collected by these trackers is pieced together, shared, aggregated, and monetized, fueling an industry valued at $227 billion per year”, Apple said.
To elaborate on the practices by advertisers and app developers and the effects on the users and their privacy, Apple published the “A Day in the Life of Your Data” report.
In the report Apple gave an example of how personal data is used by businesses to optimize targeted advertising through a story of a little girl Emma and her father John.
“On the ride to the playground, John lets his daughter play a game on his tablet, and she sees an ad for a scooter. And that was no accident on the part of the scooter company. They decided to bid on the ad space for this tablet because they wanted to target people exactly like John – living in the same city, with his income bracket, and with a young child. This ad will follow John and Emma across different apps for days, also showing up on multiple apps and websites on his computer and phone”, explained the report.
Privacy organisation activists have welcomed the chance for iOS users to “have greater control over their personal information”.
“Too often, consumers are unknowing participants in a web of data tracking and targeting. These changes will help rebalance the ecosystem so that data collection and sharing is more transparent and tracking is no longer the default. Systemic change of this breadth is a huge leap forward for consumers”, Michelle Richardson of the Centre for Democracy and Technology said.
Facebook, however, was less than happy about the new iOS policy to be rolled out by Apple, as a post of Facebook’s Vice-President of Ads Dan Levy suggested in 2020.
“Facebook is speaking up for small businesses. Apple’s new iOS 14 policy will have a harmful impact on many small businesses that are struggling to stay afloat and on the free internet that we all rely on more than ever”, Levy wrote at the time.
Despite Facebook’s dissatisfaction and its claim to have the interests of small businesses at heart, Apple plans to stand its ground and introduce the new policy “starting soon”.
The changes will come into effect with the upcoming release of iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and tvOS 14.