App developers tell Apple CEO Tim Cook that iOS 13 location tracking changes are anti-competitive

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iOS 13 WWDC 2019

There are lots of changes coming with iOS 13, including some tweaks to location tracking. Some developers aren’t happy with the location tracking changes that Apple is making with IOS 13, though, and they’ve let Apple CEO Tim Cook know about it.

Several iOS app developers have written to Tim Cook to complain that the „Always Allow“ option is no longer available in iOS 13’s location pop-up. In iOS 13, users‘ options for giving their location to an app include „Allow While Using App“, „Allow Once“, and „Don’t Allow“. In iOS 12 and earlier, there was an „Always Allow“ option, but the update to iOS 13 moves that to the Privacy section of the Settings app.

According to The Information (via MacRumors), these app developers argue that Apple’s change is unfair because it could lead some users to think that the app is broken unless they’re „savvy enough“ to find the „Always Allow“ location option in Settings. The devs also say that the change is anti-competitive because Apple’s own apps don’t need to get permission to access the user’s location, pointing to the Find My device tracker app as an example.

„Like you, we are committed to ensuring that privacy is a top priority, but are concerned that the current implementation will create user confusion that actually undermines this goal,“ the devs say to Cook. „The changes also have the added effect of removing critical geolocation functionality while simultaneously not applying to Apple’s own apps, some of which compete with the products we develop.“

The companies that’ve written to Apple to complain about the changes in iOS 13 include Tile, which makes tracking devices for wallets, keys, and other objects; Life360, an app for sharing your location with family and friends; Zenly, a location sharing app owned by Snap; Arity, a company owned by insurance company Allstate that makes tech for measuring driver risk; and Happn, a dating app.

iOS 13 location tracking permission Zenly

In response to today’s report, an Apple spokesperson said that any changes it makes to the hardware, software, or system apps are all meant to help protect the user and their privacy.

„We take responsibility for ensuring that apps are held to a high standard for privacy, security and content because nothing is more important than maintaining the trust of our users. Users trust Apple–and that trust is critical to how we operate a fair, competitive store for developer app distribution,“ the Apple spokesperson said. „Any changes we make to hardware, software or system level apps is in service to the user, their privacy and providing them the best products and ecosystem in the world.“

Apple also said that it’s working with some of the developers who signed this letter to find alternative methods for the features that’ll be affected by these iOS 13 changes.

It’s understandable that some app developers that rely on the „Always Allow“ location services setting would be frustrated by Apple’s changes in iOS 13, but the option is still available to users who can navigate to their Settings app and toggle the „Always“ location services option there. Considering Apple’s statement to this report, it seems unlikely that the company will change how location services work in iOS 13, but developers concerned about the changes could give users instructions on how to enable the „Always“ setting for location services in the Settings app.

This article was originally posted on PhoneDog

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