- Some iOS 14 users started seeing prompts asking them for permission to be tracked by apps, which is a policy change Apple announced earlier this year.
- The new privacy feature will roll out early next year, but Apple might be testing the dialog boxes as some users on the iOS 14.4 beta have already started seeing them.
- Many developers are unhappy with the new policy, especially Facebook.
Apple is following through on its commitment to protecting user privacy by requiring developers to ask users for their permission to track them for advertising purposes across apps and websites owned by other companies. The prompts were expected to start showing up early next year, but some Apple device users spotted the dialog box after installing the first iOS 14.4 beta last week, suggesting that the rollout has already begun.
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One iPad owner on the MacRumors forums took a screenshot when his iPad running iOS 14.4 beta 1 asked him if he wanted to let the NBA app track his online activity. “Your data will be used to provide you a better and personalized ad experience,” the prompt read. The user had two options: Ask App not to Track or Allow.
Apple first said that this privacy feature would be available alongside iOS 14 at launch, but following an outcry from developers, Apple pushed the launch back, explaining that it wanted 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.” That would indicate that the prompts some users are seeing are a test or a limited rollout.
Facebook has been the most vocal detractor of the policy, claiming that it “will have a harmful impact on many small businesses that are struggling to stay afloat and on the free internet that we all rely on more than ever.” The company went as far as to take out a full-page ad in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal to blast a policy it says will “change the internet as we know it—for the worse.”
Apple responded to the criticism with a statement of its own last Wednesday, December 16th:
We believe that this is a simple matter of standing up for our users. Users should know when their data is being collected and shared across other apps and websites — and they should have the choice to allow that or not. App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14 does not require Facebook to change its approach to tracking users and creating targeted advertising, it simply requires they give users a choice.
If Facebook refuses to allow prompts to be shown in its apps, the app could be removed from the App Store. Facebook likely won’t allow this to happen, and therefore it seems unlikely that anything will come of its campaign.