Block your app tracking for more privacy and improved security

If you own an Apple iPhone, iPad, or tvOS, ORAM Corporate Advisors has great news for you! One of the newest features of iOS 14.5 gives you, the user, control over how your data and activity are tracked and collected by app developers. This means more privacy and improved security for you and even your business.

App Tracking Transparency

Apple uses iOS as the operating system for iPhones and iPads among its other products. The latest update to the iOS, iOS 14.5, was released April 26, 2021. One of the new Apple features is called App Tracking Transparency which now requires applications on your devices to request permission in order to track your user activity across the apps and websites of other companies that you utilize.

In other words, this new feature notifies you when applications wish to track the activity on your phone or other Apple mobile devices. What this means is you can now turn off tracking on your phone and other mobile devices so companies don’t know what you are doing from app to app or website to website. For example, if you use Facebook then visit a retailer’s website such as Wal-Mart, the two won’t be able to know what you are doing on the other or that you’ve even been there without your permission.

How Tracking Works

Each Apple device has an “advertising identifier.” This is a number unique to each device that has been embedded for the purposes of tracking and ad targeting. Through the use of this number, app developers have been collecting detailed records about how you use your device, what apps you use and how frequently, what websites you visit, and more. With this information, companies can target you for specific advertising. The data collected about you by your apps can be used to target you for advertising and is often sold to third parties including data brokers.

Have you ever noticed how you searched for a dog door online and now you’re getting offers on dog doors? Or have you been walking near a store when you suddenly get an email offer from that retailer? That’s not a coincidence. It is the result of app and web tracking.

This tracking can lead to social engineering of your personal information from social media, retailer websites, and other online activity. Not only can such tracking lead to unwelcome marketing while you’re online, but it can lead to bad actors accessing your information and breaching your accounts.

Watch the short video by Apple which tells you about the App Tracking Transparency.

ORAM’s Recommendation

The cybersecurity experts at ORAM Corporate Advisors highly recommend all users of Apple products turn off tracking on their devices immediately. You should do this as soon as possible so your information and activity aren’t tracked for marketing purposes.

Ideally, it’s best for everyone to remain as anonymous as possible online. This is because the more information there is out there about you as a person and consumer, the more likely you are to see your accounts hacked. The less tracking software knows about you and the less information others have about you, the safer your personal information is.

If your business supplies mobile devices from Apple to employees, ORAM recommends that your IT department use App Tracking Transparency to block all app tracking outside of each company’s own app. This will help shore up your business security even more as lost credentials from employees can lead to breaches and data loss.

How to Use App Tracking Transparency

After you install iOS 14.5, all apps will be required by Apple to use the new App Tracking Transparency to request your permission as the user to track your activity. What this means, for example, is that the Facebook app can request permission to follow your activity across Facebook, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp without asking for permission as they are all owned by the same company. But, if the app wants to track your activity on other apps or “see” the websites you visit, it must request your permission first.

If you download new apps frequently, it can be a pain to deal with the constant requests for tracking permission. To avoid this, you can turn off the permissions in your Tracking settings. When you open your settings menu, you’ll see Allow Apps to Request to Track. Simply switch that from green to gray to turn “off” the tracking permissions. After you perform this change, the apps you download will no longer be able to request tracking permission. This is the same as if you automatically chose Ask App Not to Track for each of your applications on your device.

Another nice addition of the new feature is that you can stop existing apps that currently track you to stop doing so. This can be accomplished using the Tracking setting mentioned above. Remember, if you do change your mind and want to allow tracking, you can do so by simply returning to the Tracking screen in your settings menu.

Exceptions to App Tracking Transparency

There are a few cases where you won’t be able to change your App Tracking Transparency settings. For example, if you use ATT and your Apple ID is managed by an educational institution or uses a configuration profile that limits tracking, you won’t be able to turn off tracking. This is also true for users with child accounts or those under age 18 by birth year who are signed in with their Apple ID. Finally, if your Apple ID is new (set up within the last three days), you won’t be able to turn on the App Tracking Transparency setting until day four.

If you don’t use ATT as your carrier or meet the above criteria but find your App Tracking Transparency setting is already gray, you may need to restart your phone and log out of your iCloud account to reset the operating system so you can change your tracking settings.

To learn more information on employing app tracking transparency in your business, at home, or improving your company’s cybersecurity, contact ORAM Corporate Advisors now at (617) 933-5060.