Recently, tech giants Apple rolled out iOS14.5, the lasted edition of their operating system for their range of smartphones, tablets, and computers. One key feature is App Tracking Transparency (ATT), designed to give users greater control over what data can and cannot be used for targeted advertising. Here’s some insight into this feature, why it matters, and how to use it.

What is ATT and How Does it Work?

In response to increasing concerns about how personal data is gathered and used by tech companies, largely in terms of targeted advertising, Apple has developed a feature that puts more control back into the user’s hands. It’s one of the first significant moves by a tech company to address this issue, and while it’s just a start, it’s a pretty good one.

The ATT feature works by forcing apps to ask for your permission if they want to gather and track your information, giving you a chance to opt-out.

ATT is now mandatory for all apps in the app store, and those that do not comply will be suspended.

How to Use ATT

First, your device will need to be updated. All you have to do is go to Settings -> General -> Software update and let the device download and apply the new software. If you aren’t interested in updating as soon as new software is released, your device will usually send you a notification to update a few weeks down the line.

Once the update is complete, you need to activate the permissions. Go to Settings -> Privacy -> Tracking. Turn it on by swiping the slider for Allow Apps to Request to Track to green, and the feature will become active. The first time you open any of your apps, you’ll get a pop-up message to tell you that the app wants to track your data across websites and other apps, and you will be able to allow or refuse this. This should save your choice for the next time you open the app.

If you allow tracking but later want to revoke it, or you allowed tracking by mistake, you can change your choice by accessing the option in Settings -> Privacy -> Tracking.

Does That Mean All My Data is Private?

No. This feature is limited by Apple’s definition of what tracking means, and that is specifically focussed on online data that leaves your device. Data on your device can still be used for tracking and advertising purposes, as well as for fraud detection. You can watch a video to get more information about this feature here.

Why ATT Matters

For Apple, introducing ATT is about ensuring greater transparency and user control – all good things. However, there are some strategic advantages to this move as well. For example, they have also introduced privacy-preserving ad technology that checks key data such as how many times a person has downloaded an app after seeing an ad for it, or how many clicks occur between an ad and website. This is seen as “good” ad data – essentially, consumer behaviour that doesn’t reveal information that is considered to be too sensitive or personal. It also directly hurts other tech giants such as Google and Facebook, who rely on data collection for revenue.

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