How Do I Turn Off App Tracking? That’s a great question. After all, privacy is one of the hottest topics in tech today. And increasingly, it’s on consumer’s minds like never before. Luckily, iPhone owners now have a powerful new tool that allows them to recall their privacy from apps that love to snoop. It’s called App Tracking Transparency.
App Tracking Transparency is one of the major new features of iOS 14.5. It is also arguably the most powerful privacy tool Apple has ever released (and they’ve released a lot). But just what is App Tracking Transparency? It’s easy to see if you break the name down…
In short, many apps use myriad techniques to track users’ behaviors–what apps they open, where they do on the web–and metrics–their location, age, gender, interests, etc. Apps track this behavior of users via advertising identifiers they share with other third-party apps.
Previously, users have few ways to halt this tracking. And matter of fact, they were never asked for their consent to be tracked in the first place. That’s where Apple’s App Tracking Transparency comes in.
Now with iOS 14.5 and later (and iPadOS 14.5, watchOS 7.4, and tvOS 14.5 and later) apps will need to ask a user’s specific permission to track that user across the web and third-party apps. This is the “transparency” part of App Tracking Transparency. The user has the power to deny the app’s request. And if the user denies the app’s request, iOS now denies the app the ability to access the advertising identifier it needs to track that user.
How to Use iPhone’s App Tracking Transparency
Luckily, Apple made using App Tracking Transparency (this is Apple, right? Everything is simple). After installing iOS 14.5, when you launch an app you may see a new App Tracking Transparency popup appear if the app wants permission to track you for advertising purposes.
This new popup will appear ONLY if the app wants to track you. Apps that’ don’t want to track your by accessing your user identifier will not have the popup appear.
The popup will read: “Allow [app name] to track your activity across other companies’ apps and websites?”
You then have to options:
- Tap “Ask App Not to Track,” which will block the app from accessing your advertising identifier.
- Tap “Allow,” which will allow the app to access your advertising identifier.
And that’s it as far as how giving or withholding your consent works with App Tracking Transparency.
Should You Let Apps Track You?
Whether or not you want to allow an app access to your advertising identifier is up to you. If you do allow the app access, you’ll see more personalized ads. Is that a benefit to you?
Here’s how I think of it: if you trust the app with your data and use the app a lot, you should allow it access to your advertising identifier. This will help support the developer financially.
But, if an app or the company has been shown to play fast and loose with user data–if they’ve had data breeches or just don’t seem to care about user privacy that much, why give them access to more of your data? In that case, don’t allow the app access to your advertising identifier.
How To See Which Apps Are Tracking You
While the App Tracking Transparency popup is how most people will interact with the new feature, there is a way to see which apps have asked your permission to track you and which you’ve given access to do so. There’s also a way to revoke access or approve access after your original choice. Here’s how:
- Open the Settings app.
- Tap Privacy.
- Tap Tracking. Here’s you’ll see a list of all apps that have asked to track you. If the switch next to their app name is GREEN, you’ve given them permission. If the switch is WHITE, you’ve rejected their access. You can toggle the switch to green or white any time to give or revoke access.
- Alternately, you can disable the App Tracking Transparency popup altogether by toggling the “Allow Apps To Request To Track” switch to WHITE. If you do this, you will no longer see the App Tracking Transparency popup AND all apps that as iOS permission for your advertising identifier will be automatically denied. Automatically denied apps will then appear in the list of apps below, which you can then grant or revoke access manually.
How Apps Track You – Explained In Two Minutes
There are myriad ways and reasons apps love to track users (it’s how most of them make their money–off of your private, personal data). One of the best, more concise explainers for this that we’ve seen is in a short two-minute video Apple recently released. As the video states:
When you’re using apps on your iPhone, you may start to see this. It’s the new App Tracking Transparency prompt. It’s a feature that gives you a choice. A choice on how apps use and share your data. Data like your age, location, health information, spending habits, and your browsing history to name a few.
This data can help to map your runs, tag your photos, or track your location, so a nearby store can offer discounts. But some apps have trackers embedded in them that are taking more data than they need. Sharing it with third parties, like advertisers and data brokers. They collect thousands of pieces of information about you to create a digital profile that they sell to others.
These third parties use your profile to target you with ads…and they can also use it to predict and influence your behaviors and decisions. This has been happening without your knowledge or permission. Your information is for sale. You have become the product.
That’s why iPhone users will now be asked a single, simple question: Allow apps to track you or not? Maybe you’re okay giving an app your email or location, so they can share your data with others to personalize ads or build a profile about you.
And if you’re not? Well, that’s what the prompt is for. Whatever you choose is up to you. But at Apple, we believe that you should have a choice. App Tracking Transparency. A simple new feature that puts your data back in your control.
You can view the video below.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is app tracking transparency?
App Tracking Transparency is a privacy feature built into iOS 14.5 and above. It requires apps to get permission from the user before the app can track the user around third-party apps and websites.
Q: What is IDFA tracking?
Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) is a device identifier that allows advertisers to track users around the web and apps.
Q: How do I turn off app tracking?
- Open the Settings app.
- Tap Privacy.
- Tap Tracking.
- Toggle the switch next to an app’s name to WHITE to revoke the app’s ability to access your IDFA.
Apple expert and novelist, Michael Grothaus has been covering tech on KnowYourMobile for the best part of 10 years. Prior to this, he worked at Apple. And before that, he was a film journalist. Michael is a published author; his book Epiphany Jones was voted as one of the best novels about Hollywood by Entertainment Weekly. Michael is also a writer at other publications including VICE and Fast Company.