iPhone Update Reminds Users -- Again and Again -- of Being Tracked
By Patience Haggin
"' Facebook' has used your location 107 times in the background
over the past 3 days. Do you want to continue to allow background
Such pop-up notifications are frequent for many iPhone users who
have downloaded Apple Inc.'s iOS 13. They arrive every few days for
each app that tracks location while not in use and includes
Apple touted the new notifications as a way to make users more
mindful of how much tracking goes on even when they aren't using
their phones. Each notification gives users the option to let the
app use their location data only when it is in use or if they agree
for the app to track their locations at all times.
Since iOS 13 was released in September, tens of millions of
people have moved to block apps' ability to track their locations
when not in use, according to an estimate from Location Sciences, a
company that verifies mobile location data.
Some app developers, particularly the ones whose business models
rely on being able to access users' locations at all times, are
concerned that the iOS 13 notifications will hurt their apps'
adoption. Seven of them signed an email to Apple Chief Executive
Tim Cook addressing these concerns in August.
The signatories included Life360 Inc., an app that lets family
members track one another's location and can summon an ambulance
immediately in the event of an auto accident, and Tile Inc., a
maker of tracking devices for items like wallets and keys.
Both Life360 and Tile rely on constantly tracking all their
users and compete with Find My, a preinstalled Apple app that helps
users locate a lost iPhone -- and isn't subject to the same
"We genuinely believe that Apple has the user's best interest at
heart, and we appreciate that they listened to us when we raised
these issues," said Chris Hulls, co-founder and chief executive of
Life360. "We believe that sometimes there are just unanticipated
consequences of the actions they take."
Tile declined to comment.
Apple said it builds its hardware, software and apps to protect
user privacy. "Apple has not built a business model around knowing
a customer's location or the location of their device," a
Some iPhone users have expressed frustration that choosing
"Always Allow" on Apple's pop-up notifications doesn't do anything
to stop the prompts. Reminders still come every few days.
"When I say 'Always Allow,' I don't mean 'always allow until the
next time you ask me,' " said Cory Therriault, a 32-year-old in
Gothenburg, Sweden, who authorized apps such as Google Maps
flight-planning app ForeFlight to access his location at all times.
"It's a little silly that it would ask you repeatedly whether you
want something to be always allowed. Why do they think I'm changing
Apple's iOS 13 location-tracking changes have hit the supply of
mobile location data available for advertising and analytics, said
Jason Smith, chief business officer of Location Sciences. He said
the amount of location data gathered by apps while not in use had
dropped by 70% since iOS 13 was released.
Bharad Ramesh, managing director for digital activation at
Omnicom Group Inc.-owned ad agency PHD Media, said that even if
users decide to stop sharing their location at all times with some
apps, they are likely to continue to do so with others.
Consequently, that user's location data will still be available for
targeting by ads.
Foursquare Labs Inc. said it was too early to share reliable
metrics on how many users of its local-recommendations app -- or of
the third-party apps that use Foursquare's location-tracking
technology -- had limited the use of their locations.
A Foursquare spokeswoman called the reminders "a step in the
Benoit Grouchko, chief executive of Teemo Inc., a French startup
that makes software for apps to collect location data, said users
are still sharing their locations for navigating roads or tracking
a jogger's path.
Fitness-tracker maker Fitbit Inc. declined to provide data or
comment on whether users of its apps have restricted the use of
their locations since the iOS 13 release. Alphabet Inc.'s Google
announced a deal in November to purchase Fitbit for $2.1
A spokesman for Google declined to provide data or comment on
whether users of its apps, including Google Maps, have restricted
the use of their locations since the iOS 13 release.
Facebook didn't respond to requests for comment. The company
published a blog post in September explaining how its apps use
locations under each setting provided by iOS 13.
Write to Patience Haggin at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
December 31, 2019 08:50 ET (13:50 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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