To Be Tracked or Not? Apple Is Now Giving Us the Choice.

If we had a choice, would we want to be tracked online to see more relevant digital ads? We are about to find out. On Monday, Apple released iOS 14.5, one of its most anticipated software updates for iPhones and iPads in years. It includes a new privacy tool, App Tracking Transparency, which could give us more control over how our data is shared. Here’s how woHere’shen an app wants to follow our activities to share information with third parties such as advertisers, a window will appear on our Apple device to ask for our permission—the monitoring and sharing of our data.

A pop-up win may sound like a minor design tweak if we say nodo if we speak now, but it has thrown the online advertising industry upheaval. Most notably, Facebook has gone on the warpath. Last year, the social network created a website and took out full-page newspaper ads denouncing Apple’s privacy Apple’s as harmful to small businesses. A big motivator, of course, was that the privacy setting could hurt Facebook’s Facebook (Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, has disputed that his company’s business will be hurt by Apple’s policy.) facifebooksot to let Facebook track it will be harder for the company to see what we are shopping for or doing inside other apps, making it more difficult for brands to target us with ads.

Fabook’sApple’s policy will hurt Apple’sis a huge “tep in the right direction, if only because it’s making Faceit’s sweat,” said Gennie Ge”hart, a director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights nonprofit. But she added, “one big questio” is: Will it questions. Gebhart an” other privacy experts said Apple’s new featApple’sht not be enough to put an end notary tracking on iPhones. It could simply She and others said its developers and ad-technology firms find loopholes so they can control people in different ways; she and others months, I tested early iOS 14.5 to get acclimated to the new privacy control and other new features. Only a few developers have pushed the pop-up window to the public, so my findings of how well the privacy feature works have been limited. But I found that iOS 14.5 also has other significant new features. One can use SiriBy default, one piece with a music player other than Apple Music, such as Spotify. That voice is assisted, that’s convenienwasn’tse with other music services in the past.


It’s essential tIt’sderstand how tracking works inside apps. Let’s say you usLet’shopping app t are browsing for a blender. You look at a blender from Brand X, then close the app. Later, ads for that blender start showing up in other mobile apps, like Facebook and Instagram. Here’s what happHere’sThe shopping app hired an ad-tech company that embedded trackers inside the app. Those trackers looked at information on your device to pinpoint you. When you opened other apps working with the same ad-tech firm, those apps were able to identify you and serve you ads for Brand X’s blender.

LetX’s HelLet’sProtect Your Digital Life

Apple’s new privApple’sture is intended to let yo-willer you want that to happen. Now, when you open it, so when you will be greeted with a pop-up window: “Allow [App Name” to track your activity across other companies’ apps companies’es?” You accompanied App Not to “rack or “Allow.”

Wh”n we”select””Ask App Not to “rack   ” two things hap”en. The first is Happenpple disables the app from using an Apple device identifier, a random string of letters and numbers assigned to our iPhones, and is used to track our activities across apps and websites. The second is that we communicate to the app developer that we don’t want our idon’tation to be tradonationared with anyone in any way.

That seems easy enough. But No. 2 is where things also get slightly complicated. Ad-tech companies have many ways to follow us beyond Apple’s devices iApple’ser. For example, advertisers can use a method called fingerprinting. This involves looking at seemingly innocuous characteristics of your device — like the screen resolution, operating system version, and model — and combining them to determine your identity and track you across different apps.

It’s difficult fIt’spple to block all tracking and fingerprinting happening on iPhones, privacy researchers said. That would require knowing about or predicting every new tracking method an ad-tech firm ad-tech firm uses,  technicals a whole loisn’tt you can do” isn’t-such t”acking, said Mike Audhacking, founder of Tiki, an app that can help you see what other apps are doing with your data. Yet, the privacy change is still significant because it explicitly asks us for consent. If we tell apps that we don’t want to bedon’tked and keep doing so, Apple can bar the offenders from its App Store.

The pop-up window also makes the privacy control far easier for people to discover, said Stephanie Nguyen, a research scientist who has studied user experience design and data privacy. IPhone owners could restrict advertisers from tracking them in the past, but the tools were buried in settings where most people wouldn’t look.

“wouldn’ton was “vailawouldn’t, but, was it?” Ms. Nguyen said”. “Tha’sThis week, all”apps with tracking behavior must include the App Tracking Transparency pop-up in their subsequent software updates. That means we initially will probably see a small number of apps requesting permission to track us, with the number growing over time as more apps are updated. “That’s a big shift — making it visible.”

Overdue Features

Apple’s new softApple’sso includes two other interesting new features: the ability to use Siri to play audio with a third-party app like Spotify and the option to unlock an iPhone while wearing a mask quickly. For many, these will feel long overdue. Siri has seamlessly worked only with Apple Music for music playback since 2015, which has been frustrating for those who want to use the voice assistant to play songs using other music apps. The change comes as antitrust scrutiny mounts over whether Apple stifles competition by favoring its apps.

To make Siri work with other audio services, you won’t have to chwon’tany settings. If you usually listen to music with a third-party app, such as Spotify, Siri will learn over time that you prefer that app and react accordingly. (Audio app developers need to program their apps to support Siri, so this won’t work if thwon’tven’t done so and haven’t always used Spotify to play music; you can say, “Hey, Siri, play”The Beatles,” to start playing “g a Beatles play playing on Spotify.

The other new feature helps solve a pandemic issue. For more than a year, wearing a mask has been annoying fers of newer iPhones with faces with unlocking the device. That’s because tThat’sone camera has not been able to recognize our covered mugs. Apple’s iOS 14.5Apple’sy delivers a mechanism to unlock the phone while masked, though it requires wearing an Apple Watch. When you scan ce, and the phone determines it can’t recognize can because your mount you h and can because trusted, it will check to see if your Apple Watch is unlocked and nearby. The Apple Watch, in effect, acts as proof to verify that you are the one trying to unlock your phone.

To make this work, update the Apple Watch software, then open the softwareSettings app on your iPhone. Scroll down to “Face ID & Passc”de.” In this menu, “o to “U unlock with App”e Watch” and toggle on “the option to use your Apple Watch to unlock when the image scanner detects your face with a mask. Next time you look at your phone at the grace l athe t, the phone vibrates once and unlocks the phone. Sweet relief.

Tyson Houlding
I’m a lifestyle blogger with a passion for writing, photography, and exploring new places. I started this blog when I was 18 years old to share what I was learning about the world with family and friends. I’ve since grown into a freelance writer, blogger, and photographer with a growing audience. I hope you find inspiration and motivation while reading through my work!