How to Limit Ad Tracking on iPhone and iPad

Keep advertisers from following you around the internet

Ever notice that ads follow you around the internet, with the same ones appearing on many different sites? That's caused by ad tracking; if you don't like the idea of advertisers following you around the web, you can do something about it. Just use the features built into the iPhone and iPad to limit ad tracking.

What Is Ad Tracking?

Ad tracking is a set of technologies that advertisers and websites employ to learn about users, track them around the internet, and serve relevant ads to them. Ad trackers are small pieces of code websites place on your computer, iPhone, or iPad when you visit them. Websites and ads can read the code to learn about your online behaviors and interests, and use what they learn to show you ads they think you'll be interested in.

Illustration of advertising on laptop and phone
Tiago_Garcia/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Limiting Ad Tracking Isn't the Same as Ad Blocking

Not wanting to be watched by advertisers and websites is why people block or limit ad tracking. It's important to understand this isn't the same as blocking ads. When you block ad tracking, you're stopping advertisers from tracking you and collecting data about you, but you'll still see ads. Limiting ad tracking is about privacy.

Some Drawbacks to Limiting Ad Tracking

While limiting ad tracking may sound like a good idea, it does have a few drawbacks:

  • Cookies: One of the best ways to block ad tracking is to block cookies, which are small files websites put on your device. You can block them (on your iPhone, go to Settings > Safari > Block All Cookies), but we don't recommend it. If you don't accept cookies, you won't be able to use beneficial features of websites like having a site remember you're logged in.
  • Ads Are Less Relevant: Blocking ad trackers means the ads you see won't be targeted to you. Sometimes, relevant ads can introduce you to a product or service you want. Without ad tracking, you'll be less likely to see these ads.

How to Limit Ad Tracking on iPhone and iPad

If you're ready to start limiting ad tracking on your iPhone or iPad, there are three settings you need to be familiar with. Here's what to do:

  1. Go to Settings > Privacy.

    Screenshot of settings to limit ad tracking on iphone
  2. Tap Advertising.

  3. Tap the Limit Ad Tracking toggle to on/green to limit the ad tracking Apple uses to serve you ads in the App Store app and Apple News.

    Screenshot of settings to limit ad tracking on iphone

    To turn off limit ad tracking, just move this slider back to off/white.

How to Disable Location-Based Ads

Next, you may want to opt-out of location-based ads served by Apple by following these steps:

  1. Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services.

    Screenshot of limiting location-specific ads on iPhone
  2. Tap System Services.

  3. Tap the Location-Based Apple Ads toggle to off/white.

    Screenshot of limiting location-specific ads on iPhone

How to Prevent Cross-Site Tracking

Following the above steps means ads coming from Apple will be largely limited or blocked. But those are just Apple ads. The internet is full of thousands of other advertisers.

While you can't easily block 100% of ad trackers, you can still limit ad tracking even more with one more setting that prevents many advertisers from tracking your iPhone or iPad from one site to another.

Go to Settings > Safari, scroll down to the Privacy & Security section, then tap the Prevent Cross-Site Tracking toggle to on/green.

Screenshot of blocking cross-site ad tracking on iphone

Using a VPN to Limit Ad Tracking

A particularly effective way to limit ad tracking is to use and set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on your iPhone. A VPN is a special type of internet connection that encrypts all of the data sent between your device and websites in a data "tunnel." Because your connection is in this "tunnel," ad trackers can't get in and track you. You have to pay each month for a VPN, but there are many benefits to using them.

Blocking Ads and Ad Tracking With iPhone and iPad Apps

Another way to limit ad tracking on your iPhone or iPad is to block ads altogether. There are a number of apps you can install on your device to block ads (and thus ad trackers).

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