Did you ask for my permission: Apple’s next iOS update will have to take your permission before tracking you

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Come think of it how would it feel if someone started keeping an eye on you without asking you? Creepy, right. Apple’s privacy measuring App Tracking Transparency for the upcoming beta versions of tvOS 14, iPadOS 14, and iOS 14 will be taking user’s permission before tracking them. According to the sources, Apple has said that the updates in the software will be released publicly during the spring season.

Initially, Apple had plans to launch these updates in the September of last year but then called off the plan as it wanted to give sufficient time to its developers. Through this added feature, all Apple TV, iPad, and iPhone app developers will have to receive permission from the user regarding the act of tracking the user’s online activity which includes how the user engages with other websites and apps.  This is done by access to what is known as the IDFA or Identifier for Advertisers, utilized for targeted and specific advertising as well as to observe the effectiveness of campaigns.

The new feature will work by showing a prompt with choices like “Ask App not to Track” or “Allow Tracking” as soon as the app is opened. In earlier versions of tvOS 14, iPadOS 14, and iOS 14, developers were able to add a certain tracking prompt using the App Tracking Transparency Framework. However, it was not compulsory and only a handful of apps applied the prompt at their discretion.

In the case when the user chooses the option “Ask App, not to Track”, Apple will immediately block the developer’s access to the user IDFA. In addition to that, the developer cannot use other methods of assessing the user’s preferences and choices in which case the App store will remove the app as it will be a violation of the user’s privacy, Apple added.

Fortunately, users can also tailor their tracking preferences according to their requirements by opting for Settings > Privacy> Tracking on iOS 14.

The other side of the coin is that a number of companies and networks including Facebook have asserted that Apple’s change in tracking options will badly impact the small businesses monetarily. For this purpose, these ventures have also launched a website in addition to running full-page newspaper ads to voice their concerns. Facebook, while commenting on this recent update says that they disagree with Apple’s approach, however, they don’t have a choice except to show Apple’s choice.

Furthermore, Facebook added that if they don’t comply with Apple’s new approach, then Facebook will be blocked from the App store thus harming businesses and people that depend on these services. Facebook is not willing to take such a risk as it will put millions of businesses using their platform, at risk.

Facebook’s criticism has been considered “laughable” by the non-profit Electronic Frontier Foundation saying that the campaign launched by Facebook against Apple seems to show what Facebook will lose once its consumers learn about what it ad other data brokers do behind the ‘curtains’.

Interestingly, Apple’s decision has won applaud from Firefox maker Mozilla which has termed the decision a “huge win for consumers”.

Talking about Google’s response to Apple’s decision, in a blog post, the company has cautioned the developers that this change in tracking policy will have a potent effect on their revenue via Google ad on iOS as soon as App Tracking transparency requirement becomes available. In addition to this, Google also said that it will no longer collect IDFAs across its apps on iOS. This means it will not have to show Apple’s permission prompt for tracking in its apps. Also important to note here that Google has not openly attacked Apple’s decisions.

Apple while discussing its recent changes has said that whatever the new tracking change does is in line with Apple’s belief of standing up for their users. Moreover, the users need to know when their data is being tracked and collected as well as how it is being shared or used by other websites and apps. Such a change will also empower the user related to what they allow to be shared.

How caring! Isn’t it?

Well. There’s a little more to add. Apple’s this recent announcement coincided with Data Privacy Day. Apple released a PDF report titled “A Day in the Life of Your Data” to commemorate the day. This document explores and explains how the user data is tracked by third-party companies across different apps and websites and how Apple’s privacy values work as well as providing in-depth detail about App tracking transparency.

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