Apple’s iOS 13 comes with multiple new security and privacy features intended to help users lock down their iPhones. But these very features are now coming under fire from users and developers, who say they can be annoying and are killing apps’ functionality.
According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, because the updated iPhone operating system reminds people “again and again” that they are being tracked, it might be more of a hindrance than a help to privacy.
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Since Apple’s iOS 13 launched, pop-ups will appear on your device saying for example: “Facebook has used your location 120 times in the background over the last three days. Do you want to continue to allow background location use?”
Central to the issue is the fact that the “Always Allow” option now doesn’t do exactly as it says: Instead reminders do eventually pop up again to ensure users are aware of app tracking. Critics say this could result in people getting annoyed, rather than encouraging them to protect their privacy using iOS 13.
Developers are worried that this will scare users away and disengage them from their apps–but it should be noted that developers have already complained about these new Apple features, which stop them from tracking people’s location as they had in the past.
Apple said in response to the Wall Street Journal that the firm “has not built a business model on knowing a customer’s location or the location of their device.”
Apple iOS 13 and the privacy issue
There is no doubt that the security and privacy principles in iOS 13 are a good thing. However, the issue shows just how difficult it is to balance security and privacy with functionality.
“The privacy tracking notifications Apple introduced in iOS 13 should help users to be more aware about the privacy implications of using particular apps,” says security professional John Opdenakker. However, he concedes: “When people get these notifications all the time, they might ignore them, which negates Apple’s intentions to make people aware about background tracking. It will be an exercise to find the balance between usability and privacy.”
It also demonstrates a well-known issue with privacy, says ESET cybersecurity specialist Jake Moore.“One camp wants to eradicate tracking altogether, and the other doesn’t give a second thought about their own privacy.”
But he warns that this hides an even bigger problem: “Most people don’t understand what companies, or third parties even, can do with your data but it’s extremely important to try and reduce the amount of personal information that is released. Tracking data in the wrong hands can even be dangerous, but many people tend not to worry or think about it.”
Moore thinks the answer lies “in the best of both worlds” where “people can offer limited information to make apps better without being inundated with notifications or giving up their coordinates 24/7.”
It’s certainly not easy, but I would always recommend locking down your iOS apps to ensure that your iPhone stays as secure as possible. Always check the permissions you allow your apps, and be aware of who is tracking what.