Background location alerts on iOS 13 are cutting the flow of data to the advertising industry

iPhone 11 Pro
iPhone 11 Pro (Image credit: Apple)

What you need to know

  • New privacy features in iOS 13 are having a negative impact on advertisers.
  • Advertisers are seeing a huge decrease in the amount of location data they are able to collect.
  • Background data collection is half where it was just three years ago.

When Apple announced iOS 13, it unveiled some new privacy features designed to limit or block data collection. From shutting the door on inferring location through WiFi or Bluetooth, to Sign In With Apple, the company continues to make data collection harder for the advertising industry.

One of the features is having a huge impact on the amount of location data advertisers are receiving. Since iOS 13 launched in September, iPhone users now receive regular reminders when an app is tracking their location. The reminder gives users the ability to set location tracking to "Always", "Only While Using the App", or "Never". According to DigiDay, that feature is already cutting the amount of location data flowing from users to advertisers.

According to Location Services, a location-verfication business, seven out of ten iPhone users downloaded iOS 13 in the first six weeks after launch, and that eighty-percent of those turned off all background location tracking. "People have decided to stop their phones' sharing location data at a universal level," said Jason Smith, chief business officer at Location Sciences.

"We're seeing less location data that's coming from the technology in someone's phone, which is the most precise source of mobile location data ... instead, there's a lot more of the lower-quality data."

Benoit Grouchko, who runs the ad tech business Teemo, says that opt-in rates for users to share data from apps running in the background is now 50%, down from close to 100% just three years ago.

The new challenge for advertisers in a privacy focused market is to put in the time and effort to differentiate themselves, says Raman Sidhu, cofounder of Beemray.

"The state of the location data industry is similar to most things in ad tech ... anyone exploring how to deal with location data in a privacy-centric world is best positioned to deliver sustainable differentiation and growth to advertisers and publishers."

Doug Chisholm, CEO of Rippll, says that the location data business is still growing in spite of the new privacy features rolling out to iPhone users.

"We're still being approached by location data businesses that are telling us they're growing, and more importantly ... have more data than they did a year ago ... I haven't seen any change in the amount or type of data being collected and sold."

Joe Wituschek

Joe Wituschek is a Contributor at iMore. With over ten years in the technology industry, one of them being at Apple, Joe now covers the company for the website. In addition to covering breaking news, Joe also writes editorials and reviews for a range of products. He fell in love with Apple products when he got an iPod nano for Christmas almost twenty years ago. Despite being considered a "heavy" user, he has always preferred the consumer-focused products like the MacBook Air, iPad mini, and iPhone 13 mini. He will fight to the death to keep a mini iPhone in the lineup. In his free time, Joe enjoys video games, movies, photography, running, and basically everything outdoors.