iOS Privacy Prompt Starts Rolling Out

Posted on December 24, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in iOS with 13 Comments

Apple hasn’t officially announced this yet, but there are multiple reports that the new iOS 14.x privacy prompt is starting to appear in some apps.

Apple originally announced this feature at WWDC 2020 and intended to release it in the initial release of iOS 14 in September. In testing iOS 14 over the summer, I was impressed by this and a handful of other new features, noting that Apple was smart to amp up its marketing of the privacy protections in iOS since they are key a selling point for the platform. Unfortunately, it was delayed to early 2021 because companies like Facebook complained that they needed more time to adapt to the change.

Well, apparently, it’s rolling out a bit early, at least in some apps.

According to Apple, this new privacy prompt will appear when any iOS (or iPadOS or tvOS) app tries to link “user or device data collected from [the] app with user or device data collected from other companies’ apps, websites, or offline properties for targeted advertising or advertising measurement purposes.” The prompt tells the user what the app is trying to do and lets them block or allow the tracking.

Facebook recently took out full-page ads in newspapers, complaining about the change and promoting itself as the protector of small businesses that it says rely on ad-based tracking. Obviously, this is actually Facebook’s sole source of meaningful revenues, and its anti-Apple promotion landed with a thud.

More importantly, Apple CEO Tim Cook responded to the complaint by correctly noting that “users should know when their data is being collected and shared across other apps and websites—and they should have the choice to allow that or not.” “App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14 does not require Facebook to change its approach to tracking users and creating targeted advertising,” Apple explained. “It simply requires they give users a choice.”

Well, that choice is rolling out.

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Comments (13)

13 responses to “iOS Privacy Prompt Starts Rolling Out”

  1. skyczy08

    I'm leaving android and going to Apple Iphone SE, already in the mail

  2. jchampeau

    This is a nice little Christmas present to iPhone users who appreciate having a little control over what data Facebook can collect from their phones.

  3. Markus Mobius

    My understanding is that Apple's rules do not allow apps to hide content if a user does not allow tracking. But that will lead to the decline of free sites which depend on effective advertising.

    There are many users who would choose tracking and free access as a bundle over a subscription. However, if you can get free access and not tracking then of course everybody will choose not tracking and this freeriding will make the free option unprofitable.

    I haven't seen any articles discuss this problem. Instead this is always framed as grabby Facebook versus privacy conscious Apple.

    However, could have implemented this by giving both sides control: consumers can deny tracking and publishers can deny content. But then the popups would basically just become an annoyance.

    So this way Apple stands ostensibly on the good side and induces publishers to join its subscription bundle.


    Does iOS still track the user based on their device or has there been a recent change? ie. are they imposing these rules on third-parties but, in what would be typical for Apple, not their own apps and services..... what seems a great step forward for privacy, isn't quite what they'd have you believe. Would be great if this wasn't so but history suggests devil is in the detail.

    • dcdevito

      In reply to

      That’s no longer available as of iOS 13 I believe

      • Markus Mobius

        In reply to dcdevito:

        That's not true - Apple's own ad platform is excluded from those changes. This is one of Facebook's criticisms.

        But the more serious concern is that there is no way for app developers to make usage of the app conditional on opt-in (this doesn't seem to be allowed under app store rules - you cannot "punish" users for saying no to tracking). It's totally fine to require opt-in. But app developers should be able to say - "Dear user, by not opting in to tracking you are cutting my revenue from you in half and I cannot provide you access unless you subscribe or pay with your data."

        Of course, Apple didn't do that because those popups would be more of an annoyance than a feature (since people presumably would like to continue to use many free apps).

        But by unilaterally allowing users to free-ride without the app developers being able to exclude free-riders this will require apps to turn to subscriptions. Apple gets 15-30% from subscriptions - they have never liked the free web which they cannot monetize.

  5. Markus Mobius

    In reply to lvthunder:

    Untargeted ads are worth less than half of targeted ads. Hence, apps that cannot monetize targeted ads lose half their income.

    TV ads were never completely untargeted - different TV markets always showed different local ads for example.

    Once again, I don't have a problem with Apple requiring opt-in. I have a problem with Apple's rules forbidding sites to exclude users who do not opt-in. Websites can do this - and infact many newspapers in Europe do exactly that (if you go to one of the biggest German magazines you have to opt-in to cookies in order to even see the landing page).

    Apple essentially now asks users after any update if they want to be tracked. Since there is no downside from saying no most users will want to be excluded.

    This will invariably drive apps to subscriptions - for which Apple gets 15-30%.

    If Apple would really care about privacy rather than its own self-interest they would require the opt-in but allow sites to exclude users who don't opt-in. But the way it will be implemented is sounds like just a money-grab for Apple.

  6. fishnet37222

    In reply to lvthunder:

    Radio ads as well. All they need to know is the general demographic that uses the app.

  7. dashrender

    In reply to lvthunder:

    I want to say there must be a happy middle ground, but perhaps there's really not. Like there isn't a way to put a law enforcement backdoor in security that can't be used by hackers, etc to get in as well.

    I personally am willing to give up a lot to go to TV style ad tracking, but personal tracking as it exists today is beyond scary. The virtual profiles they are building on people is next level behavior modification.

  8. codymesh

    Just thinking about how Google is unlikely to ever deliver such features to the majority of the smartphones because tracking is their business...makes me feel incredibly depressed

  9. andyhi

    In reply to Bob_Shutts:

    14 days from receipt of the product... Had to argue the point when returning a new unopened iPhone 10 (only days after release) with an AT&T (company) store manager. Showed her the easy to find Apple policy, the equivalent buried AT&T policy that Apple requires of all their authorized resellers, and then had to force her to call the regional manager who begrudgingly granted the refund after citing their Apple product specific policy... all this while they had customers in the store who wanted to buy the phone as no one had them in stock.

    Apple requires this return policy of all their authorized resellers. Another win for the consumer at the expense of the Apple tax. Some will disagree, but many feel *most* of their products are worth a premium... just not an arm and a leg.

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