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Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has received a letter from a group of app developers who believe that their businesses will be hurt by specific privacy-related updates to Apple’s iOS 13. They accuse the firm of anti-competitive behaviour over new restrictions on the way that apps are allowed to access users’ location data.
Apple argues that the changes are merely an attempt to reduce the abuse of location-tracking features by certain apps.
Many apps currently request device owners to “Always Allow” location tracking immediately after installation. In the excitement of the moment, it’s very easy to confirm this, unknowingly providing such an app with much bigger access to location data than might be necessary.
Apple has now modified the way that apps can ask for location data by introducing an “Allow Once” option – seemingly a great way to first get to know an app before giving it free rein with your location data. To choose the “Always” option, device owners will have to manually activate it in iOS settings.
The app developers, however, believe that non-technical users will get confused and might think the app is not working properly if they have to make this choice every time they launch it. They could have a point: having to activate a certain setting every time could well result in users abandoning that app.
Having said that, all that app developers really have to do is properly explain the installation process to users. They could, for example, direct the user directly to the relevant iOS setting, where they can permanently enable the “Always Allow” function.
However, something that does smack of anti-competitive behaviour is the fact that Apple does not have the same requirement for its own apps. In iOS 13, Apple doesn’t allow developers to use PushKit for anything other than internet voice calls.
The app developers believe that this will “effectively shut down apps that have a valid need for real-time location.”