All you need to know about the new iOS 14.5 privacy update

Apple rolled out a major privacy update at the end of April which looks to give users more control of their personal data and who they share it with. The iOS 14.5 update introduces new restrictions on the ways apps can track your digital activity. Namely, for the first time, users will need to give their explicit permission to allow apps they’ve downloaded on their device to track their online behaviour, and sell their personal data such as date of birth, geo location, what they’re interested in, what type of pages they visit, etc. to advertisers.


So, what’s changing in iOS 14.5 privacy?

The most noticeable change will be when you open an app you’ve downloaded, and you’ll see a pop up that asks you to decide if the app can track your behaviour while you’re using it. The message you’re likely to see will be similar to the one Apple shared as an example – ‘Allow “Facebook” to track your activity across other companies’ apps and websites?’. And you should have two options to choose from – ‘Ask App not to Track’ and ‘Allow’.

If you select the first one, this means that the app will not be able to track your activity across other apps you’ve installed on your device without your consent.

Usually, app developers control when the pop up appears, but once you make your choice you can change your mind in the settings.


How do I turn this new feature on?

You will firstly need to check that your iPhone or iPad’s software is updated to the iOS 14.5 version. You can simply check this by going to the “Settings” app and tapping “General” followed by “Software Update”. Hopefully, the new function should automatically be enabled once the software update is installed, but in case it hasn’t, you can turn it on manually. You can do that via the “Settings” app, then you go “Privacy”, tap on “Tracking” and then toggling “Allow Apps to Request to Track” to on/ off (depending on your preference).

Why should I consider turning this feature on?

If you’re getting annoyed by personalised ads following you around every webpage you open, then this is a pretty good solution. By turning the tracking feature on you will likely start seeing fewer ads that are based on your online activity.

Apps, and particularly those that are free to use, collect a huge amount of data about you to create your digital profile which they sell to third parties. These companies use your profile to target you with personalised ads based on the data they have on you.

In late 2020, Apple added new labels to its App Store that explain what kind of user data is collected and shared for each app, from financial and location information to browsing and purchase history, so do check it out if you’re interested!


Why wasn’t this possible before?

It actually was! Many apps have allowed users to manage or opt-out of tracking their activity on the app; however, they have cleverly hidden this feature into user settings and wordy privacy policies and often fail to communicate this option with users in a transparent way.


What is the App Tracking Transparency tool?

This function is linked to a string of numbers known as the identifier for advertisers (IDFA). Essentially, each iPhone comes with its own identifier that provides advertisers with aggregate data about your interests.

Introduced in 2013, the IDFA is similar to the third-party cookies that are used in web browsers but work across all apps and services on a device. This is because not all apps use browsers and existing cookies tracking tech won’t work inside them. Google, for example, introduced its own version of the identifier in 2014, known as the Google Advertising ID, which is used on Android devices.

Both these identifiers work in a similar way: they can allow advertisers to track clicks, downloads and purchases within mobile apps. This information can then be used by advertisers and ad technology companies to show you personalised ads in the apps you use. The IDFA can let an advertiser know if the ads they’re paying to put in front of your eyeballs are effective in driving clicks and ultimately sales.

Apple has said that if you’ve opted out of sharing information with apps, you won’t be tracked using alternative identifiers. For example, a developer can’t use your email to track your activity. All apps, including Apple’s, have to ask if you want to share your identifier with other apps.

Interested to know what happens to your data when you share it with third parties? Check out some of the other posts we have on the topic: