How to Block Apps From Tracking Your Activity in iOS 14.5

How to Block Apps From Tracking Your Activity in iOS 14.5
Image: Apple

iOS 14.5 is finally here, baby! And with it comes much-anticipated Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature, which allows users to grant or deny apps permission to track their activity for targeted advertising. (This feature has been in the works for a while, and it’s got companies like Facebook shaking in their boots.) In addition to granting individual apps permission, iOS 14.5 users can also decide to block every single app from tracking activity altogether.

It sounds cool, but as with any new feature, there’s a bit of a learning curve. Here’s how to get started, and some answers to other ATT-related questions you might have.

How do I get started?

Well, first you need to download iOS 14.5. But once you’ve done that, you can mosey on over to Settings and scroll down to Privacy. From there, you should see Tracking right near the top. Select that and you can then toggle on “Allow Apps to Request to Track.” That’s only if you want to allow apps to ask you before they track your activity. If you already know you don’t want any app to do this, you can leave this toggled off.

Screenshot: Victoria Song/Gizmodo Screenshot: Victoria Song/Gizmodo

If you do this, or decline an app’s request to track, that app can longer use Apple’s IDFA identifier, or any other identifiers like hashed emails, to track and share your information with data brokers or third parties for ad targeting. Though, to clarify, this doesn’t mean you’ll stop seeing ads — they just won’t be personalised to you.

What happens if I allow apps to request tracking?

You’ll get a pop-up prompt that spells out which app is doing the asking and why it wants to track your data. Below that, you’ll get the choice to either “Ask App Not to Track” or “Allow.”

Screenshot: Joanna Nelius/Gizmodo Screenshot: Joanna Nelius/Gizmodo

You’re most likely to see a prompt after installing or re-installing an app, this might not be the case 100% of the time. According to Apple, what triggers the prompt will depend on the app developer, so you might see a pop-up outside of launching or installing an app. In Gizmodo’s testing, we found that not every staffer was prompted by the same apps, even with the “Allow Apps to Request to Track” toggle turned on. For instance, some of us were prompted by the NBA app upon installation — and others weren’t. The same held true for the Dunkin and Kohl’s apps. So even if you have the feature on, you might not get a barrage of pop-ups.

You’ll also be able to view a list of specific apps that have triggered prompts in the Tracking menu, beneath the “Allow Apps to Request to Track” toggle. You can edit your permissions from that list.

Why would I want to give any app permission to track my activity?

It depends on the app. Some might not function as well if you turn this tracking off, or you could be one of those people who actually likes when you see personalised ads on the internet. Another argument is that it helps smaller apps and businesses keep the lights on and gives consumers the options of ad-supported products. This is what Facebook’s been shouting about from the get-go, though obviously the company has selfish reasons, too.

Are there any exceptions?

According to Apple, it’s not considered tracking if a developer is keeping “combining information about you or your device” for advertising if all this info stays on your phone or iPad. It’s also not considered tracking if an app shares your information to prevent or detect fraud or other “security purposes.” Reporting your data to consumer reporting agencies (i.e. whether you made a credit card payment on time) also doesn’t count. You’re also out of luck if the same company is behind multiple apps. For instance, Facebook owns both Messenger and Instagram, so it can track your activity across any app it owns and operates.