iPhone – Ways to Block ad Tracking

Privacy has been a huge issue in the recent times. And if you’re an iPhone user, well then you would surely realise that the permission provided by you for the apps that you download is pretty harmful. This adds on to another effective term known as ad tracking.

Ad tracking, also known as post-testing or ad effectiveness tracking, is in-market research that monitors a brand’s performance including brand and advertising awareness, product trial and usage, and attitudes about the brand versus their competition. 

As we all know by now, data is a huge commodity these days. If you use a phone, laptop, or any type of computing device (unless you’re a security expert or a high-end hacker with access to sophisticated blocking tools), you’re paying for your apps by contributing marketing and other info to the companies that supply them.
But there are some simple ways to minimize the amount of tracking that app vendors can do and the amount of data they can access.

recent article in The Washington Post by Geoffrey Fowler described the author’s shock when he discovered just how many of his iPhone apps were collecting and uploading information about his usage while he slept.
As Fowler’s article demonstrates, iPhone users are not immune to this, no matter how much Apple assures its customers that it’s looking out for their privacy. 

Method 1 – LAT

You may not be able to get rid of ads entirely, but you can supply the advertisers with as little info about you as possible. Limit Ad Tracking (LAT) puts the kibosh on what is called “interest-based ads” — in other words, ads that target you based on your search history and other usage stats. Shut it off, and you may get ads that are totally inappropriate for your needs, but at least marketers won’t bombard you with pet ads if you just bought a poodle.

  1. Go to Settings
  2. Select “Privacy”
  3. Select “Advertising” (at the bottom of the Settings screen)
  4. Turn on “Limit Ad Tracking”
ad tracking

As The Verge mentions, LAT isn’t perfect. Marketers can also use a system called fingerprinting, which tracks information about your device type, model, carrier, and other data that is being made public by your browser. Fingerprinting isn’t as useful to marketers as ad tracking, but it can still offer a lot of interesting information. Apple has been working to lock down some of this info, but much of it is still available.

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Method 2 – Background App Refresh

According to Apple, the reason to have Background App Refresh turned on is to allow suspended apps; (apps that aren’t currently active) to “check for updates and new content”. According to Disconnect, the privacy app company that Geoffrey Fowler cites in his article; it also allows apps to collect marketable tracking data and transmit that data even when you’re not using the app. Interestingly, iPhones ship with Background App Refresh turned on, but it’s not terribly hard to turn off.

  1. Go to “Settings”
  2. Select “General”
  3. Select “Background App Refresh”
  4. You’ll see a list of all the apps that use this feature, and they’re all going to be turned on. Find “Background App Refresh” at the top of the page, and tap on it.
  5. You’ll be brought to a page that lets you enable it for Wi-Fi & Cellular data; for Wi-Fi only, or you can turn it off altogether. Select “Off.”
  6. If you go back to the previous page, you’ll see that all of the toggles for the various apps are completely gone.

For example, Google Photos won’t automatically back up your camera roll unless this feature is enabled. So you can, if you wish, leave “Background App Refresh” on; and then choose which specific apps you want to toggle off.

Method 3 – Safari 

Lastly, if you use the Safari browser on your iPhone; there are several things you can do to make it safer.

  1. Go to “Settings”
  2. Select “Safari,” and scroll down to the “Privacy & Security” section
  3. Turn on “Prevent Cross-Site Tracking”; (which means advertisers and other third-party content providers can’t track you from one site to another)
  4. Turn on “Block All Cookies”. The cookies collected by various websites can contain a great deal of information about how you use the site, what info you put into it, etc. By blocking cookies, you prevent that data from being collected.
ad tracking

However, you will probably make things very inconvenient for yourself. Your visits to sites will not be recorded, so, for example, you may not be able to revisit a playlist or repurchase the same T-shirt you bought last year. Some sites will even refuse entry if you don’t allow them to collect cookies. It’s your choice.

1 comment

  1. Thank you for another excellent post. Where else could anyone get that kind of information in such an ideal way of writing? I’ve a presentation next week, and I am on the look for such information.

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Navaneetha Suresh

Navaneetha Suresh

Navaneetha, commonly known as "nav", loves to read, play badminton, play the keyboard and sing but when she's not doing any of those, she loves to write. What started as a high school hobby to write is now her ongoing passion.

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