Apple delays controversial privacy change in iOS 14

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iOS 14 will do a bit less to protect your privacy
iOS 14 would have let iPhone users opt out of being tracked by the applications they use.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Apple pushed back the release of a major privacy change previously coming in iOS 14. It would have required each iPhone application to specifically ask if it can track the user for advertising purposes.

Most people are expected to deny access, which would shake up the advertising business.

Apple gave a statement to Alex Heath, a reporter with The Information, stating, “We want to give developers the time they need to make the necessary changes, and as a result, the requirement to use this tracking permission will go into effect early next year.”

How you would have opted out of tracking by applications

Many third-party applications use in-app advertising to track users. They employ Apple’s Identifier for Advertisers, or IDFA, to do so, issuing a unique code for each iPhone. Under iOS 14, applications would have had to ask for access to the IDFA.

Beta versions of this upcoming operating system have a toggle in Settings labeled, “Allow Apps to Request to Track.” The description says checking this will “allow apps to ask permission to track you across apps and websites owned by other companies.” Toggling this off means apps can’t even ask for permission. There’s no option to provide blanket permission for all applications.

This feature is still in iOS 14 developer beta 7, released Thursday.

A blow to the IDFA and advertisers

The change, when it’s eventually implemented, will be good for privacy, but hard on companies.

And advertising companies haven’t reacted well to the upcoming change. For example, Facebook warned advertisers before today’s delay that Apple allowing users to deny access to the IDFA will hobble its advertising network that helps third-party devs monetize their apps. Facebook even considered not offering this type of ad on handsets running iOS 14.

Despite the change announced Thursday, iOS 14 will bring other privacy enhancements. It will serve up warnings when the device’s microphone or camera is on. And it will let users share their approximate (rather than precise) locations, among other things.