Apple reverses policy on apps that track user movements
Apple’s fifth test version of its next mobile operating system shows that the company reversed course on a plan to require apps to notify users when accessing their location in the background, AdExchanger reported. The latest beta test of iOS 11, which is due to roll out next week, won’t show a blue bar overlay at the top of the phone screen that tells users when an app is tracking them when users have allowed the app to persistently track their location.
Apps that are allowed to track location only when in use will automatically display the blue bar. About one in five apps are permitted to track user locations continuously in the background, Apple said at its Worldwide Developers Conference.
Last month, weather app AccuWeather was caught by a security researcher sending geolocation data to a third-party data monetization firm even when the user switched off location sharing.
Apple typically is protective of user privacy, but its next version of its iOS will allow apps already given permission to persistently track user locations to do so without notifying them with the on-screen blue bar. Users still have the ability to change location sharing data in the settings of their mobile device, giving them the final say on how their data are being used. Meanwhile, the blue bar could become annoying to users that have already given permission to apps to track their location.
Apple’s apparent decision to remove the blue bar can be considered a victory for app developers that are dependent on user tracking data to function, and to monetize their services by serving location-based advertising to users. Apple recognizes that its developer community needs to make money somehow to encourage innovation and add to the value of its iPhone, iPad and Watch devices.
App developers still should be transparent with users on what kind of data they collect and how the information is used with third parties like advertisers. Disgruntled customers can easily spread their complaints on social media and warn millions of other mobile users about any misdeeds, perceived or real.