Apps that track you across other apps and websites on iOS, iPadOS and tvOS will now have to ask your express permission to do so. The move marks a shift in how apps can operate on Apple’s mobile operating systems and how apps can target you
All apps now have to detail what they track on the App Store (in a section called App Privacy). If they haven’t submitted details for this yet, they will be mandated to do so when they next submit an app update to Apple.
This is coming as part of the new iOS/iPadOS/tvOS 14.5 update. Apps have been able to ask for this permission in earlier versions of iOS 14, but now it will be mandatory.
Apple calls this App Tracking Transparency and it means users will now have to opt into their devices giving over information on their use. You’ll see a pop-up message like this when loading apps after they’ve been updated.
The new requirement has stoked the ire of some, especially Facebook, who rely on tracking to target ads. Your Apple device tracks what you do in apps using an anonymised Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) – this means that Facebook can serve you ads for the item you’ve just searched for on eBay.
Google has a similar thing called Google Advertising ID or GAID. These essentially tie your activity together in a way that means you can’t be personally identified. They make ads more effective for advertisers but should – in theory – also make them more relevant to you. Facebook argues tracking gives you a “better ads experience” but it has already warned investors that Apple’s move could hurt its advertising business.
App Tracking Transparency means apps now have to ask for permission to use that shared information. Of course, you could still be targeted by the information you provide such as searches or previous purchases within a particular app – so you’ll likely still see ads personalised for you.
Apps can’t circumvent having to ask for this permission according to App Store rules, nor restrict app functionality depending on whether you’ve given permission to track. Equally, they’re not able to pass on other information, such as an email address or username to others.
Apple’s own apps will also comply with these rules, but as per Apple’s privacy policies, it doesn’t share information it collects about you with other companies.
Users have previously been able to access per-app Privacy settings, but have not been asked permission. You can also globally disable tracking for a period should you wish to.
How to disable ad tracking on your iOS/iPadOS device, either per app or globally.
Go to Settings > Privacy > Tracking. You can then see a list of apps you have enabled for tracking and toggle any one of them off.
At the top is a global setting – you can turn off Allow Apps to Request to Track. This means you won’t see any pop-ups from apps and will stop any new apps from asking for permission to track.
If you have already given permission to some apps to track you, you’ll then be asked whether you want to continue to allow them to track or stop them from that point onwards.