How to stop apps from tracking you in iOS 14.5


How to allow/prevent apps tracking you
Thanks to App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14.5, it’s up to your to decide whether third-party applications track you.
Graphic: Cult of Mac

iPhone and iPad just got a significant new privacy protection, preventing third-party apps from tracking you without permission. App Tracking Transparency debuted in iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5.

Here’s how to use it. And what to do about all the popups asking, “Allow [THIS APP] to track your activity?”

ATT is the biggest privacy change Apple has made in years. How iPhone and iPad owners use it might cost Google and Facebook billions of dollars (which few Apple users are likely to cry about) but might also reduce the number of free applications on the App Store.

How App Tracking Transparency blocks surreptitious snooping

Each iPhone or other Apple device is assigned an Identifier for Advertisers. For many years, apps could access the IDFA, and developers could share that data with each other to create profiles of all the software users had installed.

That information is used to display targeted advertising to users. Think of the IDFA like a cookie for apps.

ATT in iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5 — and tvOS 14.5, too — gives users control over whether the software they use can track them. It does not automatically block applications from tracking users. It instead requires each app to ask. It’s then up to the user.

So be ready. After installing the next operating system update on your iPhone or iPad, App Tracking Transparency will be in effect. And companies who have been tracking you in the background will have to be open about it.

How to allow/prevent apps tracking you

Applications will display a popup that says, “Allow [THIS APP] to track your activity across other companies’ apps and websites.” The name of the app in question will appear in the message.

The first option is the awkwardly phrased “Ask App Not to Track.” However it’s phrased, choosing this blocks the application from tracking you or even knowing your IDFA.

The other option is “Allow.” Choosing this option means the app can track you.

You can change your mind later. On your iPhone or iPad, Go to Settings > Privacy > Tracking. There you’ll see a list of applications that want to track you. Next to them is a slider switch. Turn this on or off as you wish.

Or you can completely block all third-party applications from tracking you with a single switch. Go back to Settings > Privacy > Tracking for the option to turn on or off “Allow Apple to Request to Track.” With this off, the apps can’t even ask you if they can track you. They’re all denied.

How to allow/prevent apps tracking you with App Tracking Transparency On the left is the ATT popup. On the right is the ATT screen in Settings.

To track or not to track. That is the question.

Some people will immediately jump on the option offered by App Tracking Transparency to block all third-party software from tracking them, of course. But others should take it on an app-by-app basis.

Many developers release free software and get paid for their work by displaying advertising. By being able to track users, they can offer targeted ads and make more money. Allowing their app to track you is a way to support that developer.

But applications that people have to buy, or are tied to services they pay for, also will ask to track their users. It’s up to each person to decide if that’s justified.

Just keep in mind, blocking tracking does not result in less advertising. It’ll instead be less targeted to you.

Apple shows the pros/cons

Apple created a short video explaining App Tracking Transparency, along with its reasons for creating the privacy feature.

App Tracking Transparency debuts in iOS 14.5, iPadOS 14.5 and tvOS 14.5, all of which are now available to download and install.


Daily round-ups or a weekly refresher, straight from Cult of Mac to your inbox.

  • The Weekender

    The week's best Apple news, reviews and how-tos from Cult of Mac, every Saturday morning. Our readers say: "Thank you guys for always posting cool stuff" -- Vaughn Nevins. "Very informative" -- Kenly Xavier.