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Apple’s privacy tracking notification starts appearing for users: Here’s what it means

Apple’s iOS 14 brings a new privacy feature where the system will prompt the user if an app is tracking their activities. The prompt has now started appearing for users. Here's what it does.

By: Tech Desk | New Delhi | Updated: December 25, 2020 10:35:39 am
Apple, Apple iOS 14, iOS 14 privacy tracking, iOS 14 app tracking feature, iOS 14 App tracking notification, What is app tracking, Facebook tracking meApple's iOS 14 will start showing notifications wherein apps will have to take permission before tracking a user. This is what the setting looks like in the iPhone's settings and what the new notification looks like when an app asks for permission. (Image created by Gargi Singh)

Apple’s iOS 14 brings a new privacy feature where the system will prompt the user if an app is tracking their activities. The prompt has now started appearing for users on the latest version of iOS 14. This will ensure that each app will takes explicit permission from the user in order to continue tracking the user’s activities beyond their own app.

Apple CEO Tim Cook had earlier tweeted out a picture showing how the prompt would appear for users on the iOS, which showed the Facebook app as an example. But Facebook is not too pleased with this change. The social media giant has even taken out two full page advertisements in US newspapers criticising the new policy and said that Apple’s decision will hurt small businesses, which are dependent on a lot of this tracking data in order to find customers.

So what is Apple’s new privacy tracking feature?

The privacy tracking feature will require the app developer to ask for the user’s permission in order to track them or access their device’s advertising identifier. For developers, Apple defines tracking as “the act of linking user or device data collected from your app with user or device data collected from other companies’ apps, websites, or offline properties for targeted advertising or advertising measurement purposes.”

An image of the Apple privacy notification that was tweeted by Apple CEO Tim Cook. (Image source: Tim Cook Twitter)

So when you browse other apps or websites on your iPhone and say Facebook tracks your behaviour there, and then uses that information to share more relevant advertisements, that is considered tracking.

Sharing user or device data with data brokers also comes under the definition of tracking, according to Apple. Further displaying targeted advertisements in the app based on user data collected from apps and websites owned by other companies is considered tracking, according to Apple’s page.

Also read: Explained: Why Facebook released ads to call out Apple’s new anti-tracking policy

Apple also says that sharing device location data or email lists with a data broker is tracking. An app developer sharing list of emails, advertising IDs, or other IDs with a third-party advertising network, which then uses this information to retarget those users in other developers’ apps or to find similar users is also defined as tracking.

Apple says developers have the option of explaining to users why they would like to track them. For instance, when an app asks for permission to track, it can explain why and how this will be make the user experience better. Under the new system if the user denies tracking permission, the developer will get no data from the device’s advertising identifier value.

How can a user turn on the iPhone tracking feature? What does it look like?

Users can go to the Settings app on iPhone, followed by Privacy. Tracking should appear as the second option. You can allow apps to request to track. If you turn off the feature altogether, apps will not request you at all when tracking your activities on the iPhone.

You will also see the list of apps which are requesting tracking in the list. You can individually turn on or turn off tracking for each app as well.

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