Apple released its App Tracking Transparency feature with the iOS 14.5 update – and it is wonderful! For the first time, people can tell the apps that they have put on their iPhone or iPad to stop tracking them. It feels good to prevent apps from grabbing my data!
How the App Tracking Transparency Feature Works
Apple described its App Tracking Transparency feature this way:
App Tracking Transparency requires apps to get the user’s permission before tracking their data across apps or websites owned by other companies for advertising, or sharing their data with data brokers. Apps can prompt users for permission, and in Settings, users will be able to see which apps have requested permission to track so they can make their choice at any time:
If you dig into the Settings, and find the Tracking section, further information appears:
When you decline to give permission for the app to track your activity, the app is prevented from accessing your device’s Advertising identifier (previously controlled through the Limit Ad Tracking setting on your device). App developers are responsible for ensuring they comply with your choices…
…You can can control whether apps can ask for permission to track your activity, including by accessing your device’s Advertising identifier. If you don’t want to be asked for your permission, or do not want apps to access your device’s Advertising Identifier, you can disable Allow Apps to Request to Track.
On iOS and iPadOS, go to Settings > Privacy > Tracking. On tvOS, go to Settings > General > Privacy > Tracking. When you disable Allow Apps to Request to Track, any app that attempts to ask for your permission will be blocked from asking and automatically informed that you have requested not to be tracked. In addition, all apps, other than those you have previously given permission to track, will be blocked from accessing the device’s Advertising Identifier. For apps you previously gave permission to track, you can tell those apps to stop tracking your activity at the same time you disable Allow Apps to Request to Track…
One of the things I learned after opting-out of tracking is how many of the apps I’m using were grabbing my data (and in some cases, my exact location). I found it disturbing. As such, I’m going to be carefully considering which apps I want to keep – and which ones I want to delete.
At the top of this blog post is a screenshot that I took when I opened Instagram on my iPhone. I did not find Instagram’s reasons to allow it to track my data (and access my Advertiser Identifier) to be compelling. They’re going to have to do a lot better than: “Show you ads that are more personalized”, and “Help keep Instagram free of charge”.
I also do not believe that allowing Instagram to help itself to my data will actually help small businesses. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) called Facebook’s campaign to try and convince people that requiring Facebook (and Instagram, which it owns) to ask permission to track would hurt small businesses “laughable”.
The Ability to Opt-Out of Tracking Complies with California’s Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)
The California Consumer Privacy Act was written when California’s Attorney General was Xavier Becerra. He has moved on to become President Biden’s Secretary of Health and Human Services. The current Attorney General of California is Rob Bonta.
The CCPA provides the following protections:
- The right to know about the personal information a business collects about them and how it is used and shared;
- The right to delete personal information collected from them (with some exceptions);
- The right to opt-out of the sale of personal information; and
- The right to non-discrimination for exercising their CCPA rights
The CCPA covers all California residents. A “resident” is described as: “a natural person (as opposed to a corporation or other business entity) who resides in California, even if the person is temporarily out of the state.”
The CCPA applies to for-profit businesses that do business in California and meet any of the following:
- Have a gross annual revenue of over $25 million;
- Buy, receive, or sell the personal information of 50,000 or more California residents, households, or devices; or
- Derive 50% or more of their income from selling California residents’ personal information.
The CCPA went into affect years before Apple launched its App Tracking Transparency feature. However, it is easy to see how it fits nicely with the CCPA. Both give people the ability to prevent companies from taking (and/or selling) their data without the person’s permission.
The iapp is a non-profit organization that helps define, promote, and improve the privacy profession globally. Small pieces of the CCPA were signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2019 and 2020. If you don’t live in California, you can check the iaap website to see how a consumer privacy bill is doing as it goes through the legislation and to the governor of your state.
Many People are Opting-Out of Being Tracked
Flurry is a website that describes itself as being at “the forefront of the mobile app industry since launching the world’s first analytics platform for iOS and Android applications in 2018.” Flurry also states that it helps app developers to acquire, retain, and monetize audiences. Flurry Analytics is owned by Verizon Media.
Every weekday, Flurry provides information about how many users have opted-in to giving advertisers access their Apple Identifier for Advertiser (IDFA).
On May 11, 2021 the data looked like this:
Worldwide Daily Opt-In Rate After iOS 14.5 Launch:
Week one: 11%
Week two: 15%
Week three: 13%
U.S. Daily Opt-in Rate After iOS 14.5 Launch:
Week one: 2%
Week two: 6%
Week three: 5%
Worldwide Daily Share of Mobile App Users with “Restricted” App Tracking:
Week one: 5%
Week two: 5%
Week three: 5%
U.S Daily Share of Mobile App Users with “Restricted” App Tracking:
Week one: 4%
Week two: 3%
Week three: 3%
Everyone who opts-out of tracking sends a message to advertisers. We don’t want them to take our data and sell it to third parties without our permission. We also don’t want them to serve us ads based on the information they learned about us by sneakily tracking us around the internet (and through certain apps). I believe that this change could force the advertisement industry to become more ethical about what they do.
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