Late last month, we passed along the results of an investigation conducted by The Wall Street Journal that showed how 99% of third-party iOS apps promoted by Apple in the App Store contained secret trackers. With Apple trying to set the pace when it comes to privacy for smartphone users, a new feature that will be found on iOS 13 could help iPhone users know which apps are tracking their location while running in the background. Images posted by 9to5 Mac show a couple of examples of how this new iOS capability will work.
It appears that iOS users will receive a popup notification from an app that is tracking them while running in the background. The notification explains why their location is being tracked; for example, the notification for The Apple Store app says "We'll provide you with relevant products, features, and services depending on where you are." The Tesla app says that it is tracking the user's location "to show your proximity to the vehicle (while the app is open), and to optimize phone key on your supported vehicles (while the app is in the background)."
The notification also asks whether users want the tracking to continue and the options are "Change to Only While Using," and "Always Allow." The former means that the tracking will only occur when an app is running in the foreground while the latter means that the user is giving the app permission to track his location in the foreground and background. The upcoming iOS build will also have an option to "Allow Once," which gives permission for the app to track a user's location this one time, which means that the app will prompt the device owner to make a selection again the very next time the app is open. The notification also includes a map showing the exact locations where a particular app running in the background has been tracking an iPhone user.
Apple says that its customers are not the product
Besides alerting users that a particular app is tracking them while running in the background, the popup also gives a developer the opportunity to try to convince users that they have a legitimate reason for tracking them. If the user buys it, he will select the "Always Allow" option. If not, the "Change to Only While Using" can be tapped.
Ever since Facebook got caught with its pants down in the Cambridge Analytics scandal (for which it will get fined as much as $5 billion), Apple and its CEO Tim Cook have come out very strongly in favor of user privacy with the executive stating several times that Apple does not make its customer the product. However, Apple customers are a product to the developers of third-party apps in the App Store. Some defend the practice by saying that those who install a free version of an app instead of the premium version should be allowed to have their location data collected and sold to advertisers; others say that there are no good reasons for allowing an app to track an iPhone user's location. Interestingly, the Journal found that premium apps track users just as much as free apps.
Last Monday, Apple unveiled iOS 13 during the first day of the WWDC annual developer conference. The latest version of Apple's mobile operating system will be disseminated sometime this September. The iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus will be the oldest models still receiving the update, which means that it most likely will get cut off from 2020's iOS 14. First things first; you can read about all of the changes coming to iOS 13, including the system-wide dark mode, by clicking on this link.