With App Tracking Transparency here, it's time to send a message to ad companies
Apple just released iOS 14.5 to the public after one of the longest betas I can remember. The update is a big one, and it adds some important features. You'll be able to have your Apple Watch unlock your iPhone when you're wearing a mask, for example. But more importantly, it brings App Tracking Transparency to the table.
The feature, which has been in the works for a good long while, will require all apps ask a user's permission before they can be tracked from app to app. And that's a big deal for companies like Facebook who sell ads against the data collected that way. They want to know which apps you're using, what you're doing inside those apps, and where you're doing it. And right now, users have the chance to tell Facebook et al that no, they can't track them so thoroughly. And Facebook isn't at all happy about it.
As is usually the case, Facebook not being happy about something is a good sign that it's an excellent thing for the rest of us. Remember, Apple isn't stopping apps from collecting this data, or even from sharing it amongst themselves. All it's doing is giving people the chance to say that they don't want to be tracked. And that alone is enough for Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg to get all hot under the collar.
Now is our chance to make sure everyone – Facebook, Zuck, ad companies around the world – get the message. We don't want you to know everything about us. We don't want you to track everything we do. We don't want you to share everything you know from one app to the next.
We do want to wrestle back some control.
Now is the time to tell them. Tap "Ask App not to Track" the next time you see that popup. Do it now. Do it often.
Then maybe, maybe we'll get some privacy back as well. Eventually.
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Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.
Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.