Apple’s privacy-first approach is why you’re seeing those iOS 13 location tracking reminders

iOS 13’s strengthened security means people are seeing frequent reminders when an app like Google Maps is continuously tracking their location in the background. Apple’s responded to complaints from concerned developers and some annoyed users by saying this is by design.

When such a tracking reminder pops up, the user has the choice to either always allow tracking — which makes it easy for an app to continue with background location use — or limit tracking by changing the app’s location privacy settings to Only When Using.

iOS 13 has three location-tracking settings for apps: Never, Ask Next Time and While Using the App. Gone is the Always setting from older iOS editions that allowed continuous location tracking in the background, even if the app wasn’t running. Problem is, choosing Always Allow on the popup notification doesn’t stop the prompts, they still come every few days.

According to a statement in The Wall Street Journal, Apple’s made these changes to further limit location tracking. “Apple has not built a business model around knowing a customer’s location or the location of their device,” a spokeswoman said.

Location data that iPhone apps collect while in the background has dropped by an estimated 70 percent since iOS 13 was released, says Jason Smith, chief business officer of data intelligence company Location Sciences, so Apple clearly did something right.

Furthermore, last week’s major story from the New York Time’s Privacy Project has revealed that your location data, coupled with public records, can very easily be combined and used to identify individuals (the story is based on the data obtained from a database containing 50 billion anonymized location entries that was leaked from a whistleblower at a location collection company).

iOS 13’s privacy change also means people are now seeing prompts requiring Bluetooth access because Apple is now requiring app developers to actually request access to Bluetooth.

As a result of these prompts, people are now starting to realize just how aggressively some apps have been tracking location while not in use, either through regular location tracking or via Bluetooth, which is how businesses often track people via beacons inside stores.