New iOS 13 Location Privacy Features are Reportedly Working

Apple’s iOS 13 update has dramatically reduced the amount of user location data being shared with apps, particularly whilst they aren’t in use.

According to a new report from Fast Company, background location data has fallen off by 68 percent and foreground data by 24 percent since the rollout of iOS 13.

Jared Newman explains:

Apple’s iOS 13 update, released in September, includes regular reminders when apps are sucking up a user’s location data. The pop-up gives a user a chance to choose from the following options: allowing data collection at all times, or only when the app is open — or only one time. Four months in, ad tech sources are reporting the result that some observers had predicted: There’s less location data coming from apps.

Right now opt-in rates to share data with apps when they’re not in use are often below 50%, said Benoit Grouchko, who runs the ad tech business Teemo that creates software for apps to collect location data. Three years ago those opt-in rates were closer to 100%, he said. Higher opt-in rates prevailed when people weren’t aware that they even had a choice. Once installed on a phone, many apps would automatically start sharing a person’s location data.

Google also told Fast Company that about half of all Android users decline to share location when an app they have launched requests tracking permission. Another publication, Digiday, said apps are reporting tracking permission rates are under 50 percent.

Prior to iOS 13, when an app prompted a user to grant location access, the choices were to allow location tracking Only While Using the AppAlways Allow, or Don’t Allow. The first of these prevented background location tracking, meaning that the app could only get your location when it was open in the foreground, but the second option basically opened the door to letting the app record and report your location as long as it remained installed on your iPhone.

With iOS 13, these first two options have changed to Allow While Using App and Allow Once. The second of these is new, and will grant permission for a one-time location request, which is something that might be useful if an app simply needs to look up your location for a specific purpose, like hailing an Uber or having a pizza delivered. However, what’s most conspicuously absent here is the Always Allow option.

This prevents you from accidentally granting permission for an app to track you in the background, but iOS 13 hasn’t actually taken this capability away — you can still grant this to an app if you want to, but it requires a special trip into the iOS Settings app to toggle the option on for that app under Privacy, Location Services.

Location tracking continues, though the opt-outs mean advertisers are working with less data.

“You have an environment in which advertisers have been paying for – at a premium cost – high-quality, highly accurate GPS data,” Jason Smith, chief business officer for the firm Location Sciences, told Fast Company‘s Jared Newman. “They’re not confronted with a phenomenon in which that data is less available.”