Why You Should Turn Off iOS 14.5 App Tracking

Take back your privacy

Key Takeaways

  • One of the best updates of iOS 14.5 is the ability to turn off tracking for all your apps. 
  • Experts encourage iPhone users not to allow tracking to protect their data. 
  • iPhone users likely will experience less personalized ads, but advertising isn’t going to go away altogether.
An iPhone X beside a laptop showing information about the Facebook app on the phone screen.

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If you haven't downloaded iOS 14.5 yet, experts say you should do it now, because it includes a significant update that will affect your privacy. 

Apple's iOS 14.5 includes a feature called App Tracking Transparency, which puts you in control of which apps get your data. You probably already know your favorite apps constantly track you behind the scenes, but Apple puts the control back into users' hands. 

"This is a great step forward in the fight to reclaim our privacy," Mark Weinstein, Founder and Chief Evangelist of MeWe, told Lifewire over the phone. 

No More Tracking 

Aside from being able to unlock your phone while wearing a face mask, and the addition of new Siri voices, iOS 14.5 updates include a new App Tracking Transparency feature that experts are calling "the most significant improvement in digital privacy in the history of the internet."

The feature automatically pops up when you download a new app to your iPhone and asks you if you’d like to turn off tracking for the app or allow it. For apps already downloaded on your phone, you can go to the Tracking section under your phone’s privacy settings, where you can permit tracking or remove tracking permission for each specific app.

Closeup of someone using a phone.

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Apple describes tracking as "the act of linking user or device data collected from your app with user or device data collected from other companies’ apps, websites, or offline properties for targeted advertising or advertising measurement purposes." 

Weinstein said he encourages every iPhone user to utilize the new feature and turn off tracking abilities, no matter what apps you have. 

"The key here is for the consumer not to be mystified, not to misunderstand that they still need to take action," he said. "These companies know too much about [your data]—they know every friend, every relationship, every purchase decision."

Of course, when one thinks of a data-sharing app, Facebook comes to mind. Weinstein said the social network is so ingrained in so many different apps—including fitness apps and even period tracker apps—that you need to be careful with every app. 

"You don't have to be on Facebook to be tracked by Facebook," he said. 

"People don't really realize they expect more privacy on an iPhone than they might actually have been getting..."

"All our information is fed into this massive data ecosystem, and then it's shared with advertisers, marketers, and of course for political targeting. They manipulate our news feeds, our thoughts, our purchase decisions, and our votes. Apple's App Tracking Transparency feature is a huge step in the right direction."

Benefits Of App Tracking Transparency 

The significance of this new feature is huge: it's the first time a smartphone manufacturer has turned off ad tracking by default. Weinstein said Android users shouldn't expect a feature like this, since Google owns Android, and Google is in the data business. 

However, Weinstein said this update would allow iPhone users to finally get the type of privacy Apple has promised all along. 

A smartphone with an advertisement displayed in a game app.

Sajad Nori / Unsplash

"People don't really realize they expect more privacy on an iPhone than they might actually have been getting, so this really changes it, so now they're gonna get the privacy that they deserve," he said. 

As far as benefits iPhone users may notice by turning off tracking, Weinstein said those annoying, customized ads might lessen over time. 

"As this becomes more prevalent, what would be refreshing is, if I'm having a conversation about needing to go and get some dog food...that I won't get a pop-up ad for dog food 10 seconds later," he said. 

Weinstein added that people could expect a more natural experience when using apps, but cautions that turning off app-tracking won't eliminate advertising completely. 

"The key here is for the consumer not to be mystified, not to misunderstand that they still need to take action."

"This just eliminates—in certain contexts for advertisers—some of the granularity that they're used to getting," he said. 

"They'll still be able to target you on other platforms; this is a start, but this is by no means a sea change."

As the conversation about our digital privacy becomes more and more prevalent, Weinstein said more changes like this will come as users realize the importance of their personal data. 

"Remember, data is valuable, and your data is your business," he said.

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