Third-party app tracking has been an issue for the past 5 to 7 years. As our technology becomes more connected, people start to see the dangers this connectivity can pose. Todd Haselton of CNBC wrote an article talking about how Apple’s new iOS software will alert its users when an app is tracking the user’s location. Many phone users keep their location services turned on because it gives them easier access to map and GPS services, they get alerts for the area they are in, and some apps have filters for the user’s location. Haselton urges users iPhone users to pay attention to this alert because location services is how apps like Facebook or Uber target ads to you, they sell all your data to third-parties and allowing them to have your location means they will track you all day and understand what a user does day-to-day. How much time one spends at work, do they buy lunch or pack lunch? Do they eat lunch at all? Do they use public transport? etc. Apps that can track a user’s location can learn all this information and Apple warning users is a great step towards better privacy.
Another interesting point brought up in this article is the use of Bluetooth as a mode of tracking. Android and Apple phones are both making a big push towards wireless everything. Anyone with an iPhone 10 now has airpods, which are headphones that require the use of Bluetooth. Hasleton talks about how apps like, “Dunkin’ Donuts, ESPN Fantasy, GroupMe, CVS, Amazon and others had access to Bluetooth, which could give them the ability to track my location through Bluetooth beacons on storefronts and in other public venues” (Hasleton 2019). Personally, I did not know that Bluetooth connectivity could help track location. It is a bit scary that storefronts have receptors to collect your data while you shop. This phenomenon is not new, but this is a new way to track customers. I knew that apps automatically turn on every permission, but it is a bit annoying that phones do that without the user’s knowledge and then bury the app permissions, so the user has to dig to stop this. It is good on Apple for reminding the users that these apps are using their information and location past when the user allows the app to use it. Although there are so many more steps to take for users to feel safe, this move from Apple will hopefully have users (not just Apple users also) wake up that their data is always being collected.