The App Tracking Transparency privacy feature in iOS 14.5, iPadOS 14.5 and tvOS 14.5 requires iPhone, iPad and Apple TV apps to obtain explicit consent from you before tracking you.

App Tracking Transparency: Now vs. before

Apple has been arguing that App Tracking Transparency is about giving people choice.

Apps that want to track your activity across other apps and websites are now required to put up a new system permissions dialog, not dissimilar from those you see when an app seeks permission to get your current geographical location or access your Photos library.

According to Apple’s description of the feature:

Apple requires app developers to ask for permission before they track your activity across apps or websites they don’t own in order to target advertising to you, measure your actions due to advertising or to share your information with data brokers.

Before iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5, apps were able to leverage your IDFA identifier to track your activity across apps and websites from different developers for more accurate ad targeting. Such unsolicited tracking is an invasion of user privacy so Apple sought to do something about it.

For those wondering, IDFA or the Identifier for Advertisers is a unique randomly generated identifier assigned by Apple to a user’s device that advertisers use for tracking.

With the App Tracking Transparency initiative now in effect, developers can no longer resort to IDFA cross-app tracking without getting explicit user permission first. In other words, tracking went from an opt-out feature before iOS 14.5 to being an opt-in on iOS 14.5.

Any apps found to track users without consent will be removed from the App Store altogether, the Cupertino technology giant warns in a post on the Apple Developer website.

How to stop an iPhone app from tracking you

The first time you open an app after upgrading to iOS 14.5 or iPadOS 14.5, you’ll be greeted with Apple’s new privacy prompt seeking your permission to track you. From there, you can very easily choose to either not be tracked by this app or to permit tracking.

At any point in time, you can change that setting for that specific app by following these directions:

  1. Open Settings on your iPhone, or iPad.
  2. Choose Privacy from the root list.
  3. Hit the entry labeled Tracking.
  4. Turn tracking on or off for an app displayed in the list of apps.

All apps aside from those that you have previously given permission to track will be blocked from accessing your device’s advertising identifier.

What happens when you give tracking permission

Not all apps track your activity invasively for ad targeting, some do it to improve features like content recommendations. If you decide to permit an app to track you, doing so will allow information about you or your device collected through the app to be combined with information that third parties already have.

Combined data can then be used for purposes of target advertising or advertising measurement. If an app’s developer has opted to share that information with data brokers, any publicly available information about you or your device may be linked to your user profile.

It is not considered tracking when the app developer:

  • Combines information about you or your device on your device, without sending data off of your device in a way that identifies you.
  • Shares information about you or your device with data brokers solely for the purpose of fraud detection/prevention or security purposes.
  • When the data broker with which the app developer shares information about you or your device is a consumer reporting agency and the information is shared for purposes of reporting on your credit activity or to obtain information on your creditworthiness in order to determine your eligibility for credit.

If you’d rather not see those prompts at all, you can disable tracking altogether.

How to stop iOS apps from tracking you altogether

To revoke tracking permission or stop tracking altogether for all the apps installed on your iPhone and iPad, use the updated privacy settings in iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5.

  1. Open Settings on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.
  2. Choose Privacy from the root list.
  3. Hit the entry labeled Tracking.
  4. Slide the switch next to Allow Apps to Request to Track to the OFF position.

This will stop all apps installed on this device from tracking your activity across other companies’ apps and websites.

When you disable “Allow Apps to Request to Track,” any new apps installed on your device that attempt to ask for your permission to track you across other apps and websites will be blocked from asking and automatically informed that you have requested not to be tracked.

In other words, toggling off this option will stop the operating system from seeking your permission and prevent apps from accessing your device’s IDFA advertising identifier.

How to stop app tracking on Apple TV

To stop a single Appel TV app from tracking your activity across other apps and websites, open the Settings app on your Apple TV HD or Apple TV 4K with tvOS 14.5 or later. Now choose Privacy → Tracking, then select the app in the list below the heading “Tracking.”

To stop app tracking completely in tvOS 14.5 or newer, open the Settings app on your Apple TV, then select Privacy → Tracking and disable “Allow Apps to Request to Track.”