Skip to main content

iPhone users opting out of app tracking are still being tracked by Facebook and Snapchat (report)

iPhone 13 Pro
(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

With the release of iOS 14.5, Apple gave iPhone owners the ability to opt out of app tracking to avoid companies sharing your data for ad tracking purposes, a major profit center for social media apps like Facebook. 

Unsurprisingly, many of these companies complained about the move and, according to a new report from the Financial Times, Facebook and Snapchat are among those finding ways to work around the new policy to still deliver your data to advertisers (via 9to5Mac). 

The trick is that while App Tracking Transparency prevents companies from sharing your unique and identifiable data with other parties, it doesn't prevent them from collecting that data. What Facebook, Snapchat and others are doing according to the Financial Times report is sharing that data in anonymized and aggregated groups. 

It's unclear how large these groups might be. Regardless, there have been numerous reports from MIT Technology Review and others demonstrating that it is possible to track users even based on anonymized data. This is clearly violating the spirit of what Apple was trying to do with this new feature and what a reasonable user would expect when opting out. 

With that said, these actions do appear to follow the letter of the law when it comes to Apple's policy. According to the Financial Times, this level of tracking is essentially industry standard, so perhaps Apple deems it good enough. We'll just have to wait and see if Apple takes any further steps in future iOS updates to safeguard its users' privacy, something the company has made a major talking point in recent years.

Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more.  Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.