New iOS 13 feature has led tens of millions of iPhone users to disable this setting

New iOS 13 feature has led tens of millions of iPhone users to disable this setting
Apple dropped iOS 13 in September; one of the new features it brought to iPhone users was a notification reminding them how many times a particular app tracked their location over the past three days. It then asks whether the user wants to continue allowing the app to track their location data. As an example, an iPhone user might have received a notification that said, "Google Maps has used your location 120 times in the background over the past three days. Do you want to continue to allow background location use?" The Wall Street Journal says that since the release of iOS 13, "tens of millions" of iPhone users have blocked the ability of apps to track them in the background. For this information, the paper cites a company named Location Sciences "that verifies the accuracy & quality of location data used in proximity-targeted advertising," according to its website.

It appears that many iPhone users didn't know that their location was being tracked in the background by some of the apps that they installed on their phones, that is until they received these notifications. Last summer, the Wall Street Journal found that 99% of the iOS apps it looked at contained third-party trackers that collected personal data for ads, marketing purposes and analytics. 79 out of 80 apps listed in a promotional section called "Apps We Love" included at least one third-party tracker with the average being four.

Some apps require constant tracking of a user's location data


The new popup notifications referencing location data have upset certain developers who offer apps that depend on knowing iOS users' locations at all times. Seven of these developers collectively sent an email to Apple CEO Tim Cook in August complaining that the iOS 13 notifications could limit the number of installs that their apps receive. One of these apps, Life360, allows family members to track each other's locations in case an ambulance needs to be called. Another one of these apps is Tile; this app is designed to help users find keys, electronic devices, and other portable items. Both of these apps need to be able to track the location of users at all times and the developers are frustrated that Apple is giving its own Find My app a little advantage. While the latter also needs to constantly track users, Apple does not send out the popup notifications for this app that it does for the others.


Chris Hulls, the co-founder and CEO of Life360 isn't angry at Apple, nor does he think that the company is doing this to benefit its own tracking app. "We genuinely believe that Apple has the user’s best interest at heart," the executive said. "And we appreciate that they listened to us when we raised these issues. We believe that sometimes there are just unanticipated consequences of the actions they take." While Tile did not comment, an Apple spokesman stated that "Apple has not built a business model around knowing a customer’s location or the location of their device." The information that these apps collect is sold to advertisers, retail chains and even hedge funds who use this data to figure out consumer trends.

The tracking location provides more accurate data as to a consumer's intentions. For example, John Doe might go on Google and search for several books related to diets. But the location information may reveal that Mr. Doe actually enjoys eating at KFC, McDonald's and Wendy's.

Several iPhone users are upset because setting their handset to "Always Allow" for popup notifications doesn't stop the reminders from appearing every few days. One iPhone user named Cory Therriault says, "When I say 'Always Allow,' I don’t mean 'always allow until the next time you ask me. It’s a little silly that it would ask you repeatedly whether you want something to be always allowed. Why do they think I’m changing my mind?" And even if an iPhone user stops allowing some apps to track him or her, there are usually some apps that the user will continue to allow location tracking for. And these apps will send location data to advertisers.

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15 Comments

1. Derekjeter

Posts: 1577; Member since: Oct 27, 2011

There should be a law that would fine (to the point of bankrupt) a company when it’s selling users data to other companies. Like Verizon, Facebook, Google and the rest of them. If I allow tile to keep track of my location that should be the only thing they should have access to, but it’s not. When you sign up to for example Bose Connect, they ask if they can use the Bluetooth, but they also ask to view your email, birthdate, friends and other two things I can’t remember. Why even ask to know all that? Just grab the Bluetooth connection and call it a day.

3. Papa_Ji

Posts: 912; Member since: Jun 27, 2016

And Google, apple and Microsoft collect data from the world and give it to US government/army... (imagineif these companieswwere from other countries like Russia, or China) and they use this data for most inhuman activities... like terrorist activities. and calling companies like Huawei a nation security because they don't allow them to collect desired data. The world should stop the use of US based spying Softwares.

14. slashas

Posts: 147; Member since: Jul 17, 2017

Or I should get margin from sold information of my data, Europe Union is starting to go that route

2. Abdbaas

Posts: 163; Member since: Apr 05, 2016

Alan and his click bait posts' titles *facepalm*

15. vincelongman

Posts: 5814; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

He's the worst offender ahaha

4. cmdacos

Posts: 4391; Member since: Nov 01, 2016

#nannystate for people incapable of making their own decisions. Yet Apple has full rights to track and use the data with their 'partners'

5. MsPooks

Posts: 311; Member since: Jul 08, 2019

I paused Google tracking over a year ago, and it's had minimal impact on anything I do. The biggest: I can no longer just say "navigate home" in Maps; I have to type the address. Home is still defined in my profile, but I guess Google wants to punish me for disabling tracking, and I don't mind that penalty.

9. lyndon420

Posts: 6918; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

@MsPooks... How is Google punishing you? You paused Google tracking, so obviously some functionality within their apps will be lost...that's what you wanted right??

12. MsPooks

Posts: 311; Member since: Jul 08, 2019

They still know what "HOME" is; it's right in my freaking profile. So when I say "Navigate home," and Maps says "We have no idea what 'HOME' is..." Do the math. I'd understand if they had deleted my defined places when I paused tracking; but they didn't. They just want to make the point that "See! We told you some features would be broken if you paused tracking!"

6. Vokilam

Posts: 1449; Member since: Mar 15, 2018

Does android have the option to allow tracking only when app is open? I’ve noticed this option when I got an iPhone.

8. cogito

Posts: 75; Member since: Aug 18, 2015

On Android 10 (Galaxy S10) the option exists and the device also warns you when an app does it in the background then asks you if you want to change the setting to disable completely or allow location tracking only when using the app.

11. lyndon420

Posts: 6918; Member since: Jul 11, 2012

I used an app a few years ago that was highly customizable. For example - no data used unless my phone screen was turned on.

7. cogito

Posts: 75; Member since: Aug 18, 2015

This isn’t just an iOS thing. I recently installed Android 10 on my Galaxy S10 and it too has a similar warning.

10. Alcyone

Posts: 615; Member since: May 10, 2018

*opinion* (tired of my opinions being warned) Little late to the party on this news.

18. Scott-R

Posts: 1; Member since: Jan 02, 2020

I agree with Cory Therriault. If a user receives the pop up and they choose "Always Allow" that should be the end of the warnings. They had to choose "Always Allow" at some point, then they confirmed it again. Enough already. We manufacture a Smart Home product that relies on being able to track the user's location in the background to enable key features. We don't ALWAYS track the user's location, but there is no option to "only track user's location in the background as they are approaching or leaving home, and only under certain circumstances", so the only permission option is "ALWAYS". This permission is required for a number of smart home products such as alarm systems where users like the fact that it will automatically disarm the house alarm as they arrive home, or set the thermostat, music, and lighting for example. Or in the case of our product, it will automatically open / close the garage door if you are driving one of your authorized vehicles as you come and go. The point being - the smart home market is growing and there are some companies (such as ours) that require this permission but absolutely DO NOT sell the location data. The presumption is that if a company is given this permission, they are going to use the data for other purposes. I cannot speak for other companies, but in our case the location data does not leave the phone, and is deleted shortly after it is collected (no longer relevant). It has one, and only one, intended purpose. Our app needs to know when the user arrives home / leaves home so it can perform the actions the user expects. Nothing more. Period. It would seem the bad actors outnumber the good guys and Apple stepped in to warn its users. I hope there is some sort of limit to how often iOS is going to keep asking users to re-confirm the same permission over, and over, and over again. Oddly I have not seen "Apple Home (HomeKit) has been using your location in the background" warning messages.... hmmmm and HomeKit has triggers for "when I arrive / leave home". I wonder how it gets those when the location permissions for the "Home" app DO NOT include "Always"? It only goes up to "While using". Yet it can work in the background??? Now who is being misleading? How is it possible that the app can perform a trigger when you are not using the app, but you have not given it permission to do so. In fact, you don't even have the option available to give it this permission, yet it has it. Hmmmm....

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