iOS 13 will map the apps that are tracking you

As Apple continues its privacy march, the upcoming iOS 13 mobile update will be right there, and it’s pulling tracking apps along.

Apple showed off iOS 13 last week at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC).

Beta testers at 9to5Mac have discovered that the upcoming release, now in preview, will tell you what apps are tracking you in the background and will give you the option of switching them off. Ditto for iPadOS.

The new feature comes in the form of a map that displays how a given app – 9to5mac showed screenshots of popup notifications about tracking apps from Tesla and the Apple Store – has been tracking you in the background, as in, when you’re not actually using the app.

The notifications show a map of the specific location data a given app has tracked, displaying the snail-slime trails that we all leave behind in our daily travels and which so many apps are eager to sniff at for marketing purposes.

Or for other reasons, as well. Besides the map, the popups will also provide the app’s rationale for needing access to a user’s background location.

Tesla’s explanation:

Tesla uses your location to show your proximity to your vehicle (while the app is open), and to optimize phone key on your support vehicles (while the app is in the background).

And the Apple Store app’s explanation:

We’ll provide you with relevant products, features, and services depending on where you are.

The notifications offer the option to keep giving a specific app background access to your location or to change it to “only while using.”

iOS 13, which Apple says will be available as a public beta next month, will also offer users the option to give apps access to location “just once,” instead of continuous background access or the constant access an app wants when in use.

You won’t see these notifications on Apple’s other platforms, given that you don’t need them. tvOS doesn’t support always-on location gathering, macOS doesn’t have Always or WhenInUse because prompting of the user is automatic, and Apple says watchOS doesn’t need it, according to 9to5mac.

Meanwhile, in other “stop these tracking apps!” news…

On Monday at WWDC, Apple SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi also said that Apple was “shutting the door” on developers’ “abuse” of location data by instead using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi network details to estimate users’ locations.

Federighi unveiled a new version of its Find My device feature onstage, saying that the new tool can track the location of iOS 13 and macOS 10.15 Catalina devices using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi even when they’re offline.

As AppleInsider reports, the new technology relies on crowdsourcing from Apple’s massive user install base, sending out Bluetooth beacon signals that are picked up by nearby iOS or Mac devices, which then pass on a found device’s identifier and their own location information back to Apple for later access by Find My users.

Every step of the data’s journey is encrypted, Federighi said, thereby protecting users’ privacy:

This whole interaction is end-to-end encrypted and anonymous. It uses just tiny bits of data that piggyback on existing network traffic so there’s no need to worry about your battery life, your data usage or your privacy.