App Developers Can No Longer Dictate GeoLocation Permissions
Apple has unveiled an important privacy improvement with iOS 11: The ability to control how an app collects your location data.
iOS Apps have three options for collecting your GeoLocation data: “Never” (can’t access your location), “Only While Using The App,” and “Always.”
“Always” includes when the app is running in the background. These are the options available on iOS 10 and the same options will be available in iOS 11.
But prior to iOS 11 the app developer has been able to control which of those options are available. Some popular apps – including Waze and Uber – only allowed the “Never” or “Always” choices, which may be more control than many users wanted to give.
Users running the iOS 11 beta noticed that the operating system overrides the app’s choices, giving users the ability to choose any of the three GeoLocation permissions for any app.
🚨 iOS 11 *FORCES* option for GPS access “Only While Using the App” even when apps don’t offer it!
Suck it Uber. pic.twitter.com/op1siQ8rZz
— Ryan Jones (@rjonesy) June 6, 2017
Uber is a prime example of why this is such an important change. Late last year it started tracking riders’ locations for 5 minutes after their ride ended. Uber said this was to “improve pickups and dropoffs, customer support, and safety.” At the same time, it removed the “While Using This App” location option from its app.
Developers have few incentives to collect less data, and users have almost no power to influence such choices. On current iOS versions you could limit tracking by selecting “Never,” however this significantly compromises the usability of most apps by making you manually enter all information or breaking some features altogether.
This gave users two choices: compromise the functionality of the app, or concede to the app’s over-reaching request for data. Giving developers control over location permissions encourages a slow creep towards more and more data collection.
Apple has corrected this problem with iOS 11 and made a significant improvement in user privacy by giving users the power to control how and when their data is shared.
iOS 11 is set to be released in “Fall” as a free upgrade.