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Cover Your Apple Tracks with iOS 14.5 Feature

Are you tired of apps tracking you across the face of the earth? Are you fed up with being just bits of data? Are you wary of the extent someone might go to sell something – no matter how much you might need it?

Just with Apple apps alone, according to Wirecutter, a product review site from the New York Times, will help us find out just how extensively apps track us for advertising purposes. They looked at 250 apps, including weather trackers, dating apps and games after installing the iOS 14.5 update for iPhone and iPads.

Apple has three categories of data tracking:

  • Data Used to Track You (or your device) and shared across different apps, ad networks, and companies
  • Data Linked to You (and your real identity) that is collected by the app and company but not shared
  • Data Not Linked to You that the company generally aggregates into larger statistics

You can find this information in the App Store in the app description, and you need to go there to view it whether you have installed the app or are just shopping. Apple calls a “privacy nutrition label,” even if it’s not specifically labeled that way. As with nutrition information on a food package, it can sometimes raise more questions than it answers, but it will give enough to make a decision about tracking options, which we’ll get to in a bit.

Each category lists any of the 14 different types of data that the app collects and uses, as self-reported by the app’s developer. This labeling gets complicated quickly, and the same type of data can appear in multiple categories. If you’ve already clicked the link above and viewed the chart, you can see what the authors mean.

Here are just a few quick points about Data Used to Track You:

  • If you see “Contact Info” listed as data an app can collect, that can include your name, address, phone number, email address, and “Any other information that can be used to contact the user outside the app.”
  • Even without your contact info, you can be tracked by a device ID that makes it easy for third parties to track you through other apps, services, and websites. This is why you can search for a pair of running shoes in one app and see ads for running shoes in other apps.
  • If you allow tracking, the app will continue to share the types of data as listed on the privacy label with other apps and data brokers. You can always review or change your choice by heading into the Settings app and selecting Privacy then Tracking. If an app has ads, you’ll still see them after disabling tracking, but they won’t be based on tracking data from different apps or services.

The Data Linked to You category includes any types of data the developer collects that can be tied to your identity but is not shared with third parties. Some privacy experts are not sure that it’s always not shared, despite the claim.

Almost everything in the Data Not Linked to You section is about analytics, Wirecutter reports. About 50 percent of the apps claimed to collect “Diagnostics,” for crash reports, energy use, and other technical issues.

Here’s how to cover your tracks on your iPhone and iPad.

  • Disable tracking on your iPhone or iPad. Go to Settings > Privacy > Tracking and disable Allow Apps to Request to Track. You can allow some apps to track your activity by customizing the settings for each app.
  • Delete apps you don’t use. You might have dozens of old apps sitting there, still selling your data. If you download new apps, scrutinize the privacy label and make sure you’re comfortable with how they handle your data.
  • Avoid the big tech companies. Read through any privacy label for an app made by Facebook or Google, and you’ll see how much data they collect about your behavior. You may want to consider using their services in your browser instead.

While you’re at it, consider a new browser. Apple’s default Safari app isn’t bad, but some alternatives, such as Brave, DuckDuckGo, and Firefox, are even more focused on privacy, and all of them integrate more privacy protections inside the app than Safari.

This article focused on iPhones and iPads. Similar data can be collected by apps and websites you visit with your computer, and there are ways to block tracking and data collection for groups of computers or individual computers.

If you need any help in figuring out how to stop data collection on a device or computer, we can walk you through the process. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us for help.