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How to stop apps from collecting your data on iPhone or iPad using the App Tracking Transparency feature

If you’ve ever looked at a product on your computer and then you see an ad for that product in a social networking app on your phone you can feel like the ad is targeting you.

We’re talking about the different apps that you use on your smartphone. A lot of the apps can track your activity, and identify topics that interest you, and thus know what kinds of products or content you may be interested in. They do all this with a special algorithm, and sometimes without your consent. In iOS 14.5, Apple delivered on its promise and gave users the ability to stop this practice with App Tracking Transparency.

How the App Tracking Transparency work

Some apps ask for permission to track your activity when you install and activate them. But App Tracking Transparency, ATT for short, requires all apps with tracking features to request permission to track your activity in other apps and on other websites. That’s why when you install literally any online app, you see a request for permission to track what you do on your device.

Limiting this kind of activity is important because the combination of these apps and websites creates a strikingly detailed profile of how you spend your time online and how you use your smartphone. You’re hardly going to like the fact that someone has so much data about you.

How to turn off the App Tracking Transparency feature

In addition to forcing apps to ask your permission to track you, ATT allows you to track which apps and companies are tracking you. This feature is active by default if you have iOS 14.5 or later. Of course, you can turn this feature off. To do this, you need to:

  1. On your device, open Settings.
  2. Scroll down and select the “Privacy” tab. On tvOS devices, select “General” before “Privacy”.
  3. At the top, tap “Tracking”.
  4. Next, next to “Allow apps to request tracking”, tap the switch, so you can turn this feature on or off. When it’s on, the switch will glow green.
  5. You can also adjust which apps can track you and which can’t. This is also done with a switch next to each app indication on this page.

How to find out what kind of data apps are collecting

If you’re interested in what data your installed apps collect, do the following:

  1. Open the App Store.
  2. Go to the installed apps, or search for the desired app in the search box.
  3. When you find the app you want to check, click on it and go to its page. At the very bottom, you’ll find App Privacy, which shows you what data that app collects.

You’d be surprised how much information about you is sometimes found out by complete strangers.

How it happens that ATT isn’t available for you

Sometimes the App Tracking Transparency option appears grayed out, which means you can’t turn it on. There are three situations where this can happen. Read below:

  • Within the last three days of creating your Apple ID, the option to enable ATT will be blocked.
  • If the user is under the age of 18, he or she won’t be capable to use this function either.
  • For profiles that restrict tracking, or are managed by an educational institution. With such profiles, you also won’t be capable to use this function.

Privacy will always be one of the most important things in a person’s life. No matter what device you use, it will always be useful for you to know who and how can collect your information. Always check any app for extra features before installing it. Who knows, maybe the next app you install will collect information about you not for matching ads, but for a group of scammers.

Vladimir Sereda
Vladimir Sereda
Deputy Editor of Science Section


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