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iOS 13 app tracking alert has dramatically cut location data flow to ad industry (appleinsider.com)
781 points by clairity 5 months ago | hide | past | web | 451 comments | favorite

I'm probably saying the complete obvious, but Apple can completely crush Google if they execute this angle properly.

Google has no choice but to support ads. They're an ad company. Apple has to keep hammering how bad the ad and privacy experiences are with Android. Make iOS an absolute delight to use in contrast.

I'd pay a premium for that. Android has done a great job making me want an iOS device again, these last ten years.

For some reason I still strongly prefer the look and feel of Android over iOS, but at this point my next phone will be an iPhone.

Why? Because Google recently stepped up its notification spam in their official apps. They're using a mechanism that's supposed to exist to notify me of things _I_ want/need to know about urgently instead to advertise products and services to me that I have no interest in.

It's tedious to track down all the places these are coming from and disable them. And I shouldn't have to. I paid a premium for a high-end flagship Google phone. As a phone user, I have to give the vendor power to do all kinds of things on my behalf and to me — in this case, the power to pull my focus, or even wake me up in the middle of the night. As a phone user, my bare minimum expectation is that this power will be respected. And yet Google has chosen to use this focus-pulling notification mechanism to serve me ads.

Google does not respect even their paying users. It feels like somewhere deep in their corporate culture, their users barely even exist to them. I'm just a sub-pixel blip on a request rate dashboard, and if they can temporarily increase my "engagement" by slapping me in the face, then a slap in the face it is.

> I paid a premium for a high-end flagship Google phone

Unfortunately it seems paying a premium isn't enough to get any respect from manufacturers these days. Just look at Samsung and LG TVs, you can pay thousands for a high-end model and still have to set up PiHole to avoid being shown ads in the menus.

I get ads in German public broadcasting for which I am (effectively) paying a tax. I get ads in "premium" streaming services which I directly pay (!) for.

Fuck everything about this.

This absolutely infuriated me. I bought a very expensive new TV a year ago. Then last summer it suddenly started showing ads in the menu. I was planning to return the TV to the store and getting my money back but it would probably just be a headache inducing hassle. Now I pi-holed my entire network.

This is why I use an AppleTV, and don't give my TV the wifi password.

This is my next step. I don't current have any 4K/HDR devices, so the built-in apps do actually have some benefit to me. As soon as I pick up a compatible streaming device, I'll be factory resetting the TV and setting it back up without ever connecting it to the network.

This is what I do and it works well. Once or twice a year I’ll update the tv firmware via usb

I plugged another device into my TV and use that for media streaming. I’ve never connected my TV to my network and haven’t had any issue

I ended up disconnecting my samsung tvs from the network for this issue. funny enough i just recently noticed one of my higher end samsungs has started broadcasting a bluetooth connection. i’m sure this wasn’t there before i disconnected it

Just a heads up: Apple in their guidelines tell developers not to do that, and yet they do send some notifications advertising their products and/or services sometimes (recently for Apple TV+). They also do not police developers' notifications, so some developers abuse it. Just an example: I love Slopes and its lone developer deserves all the praise, and yet a week ago I've received an unwarranted ad for the paid subscription disguised as a notification... Not cool.

Hi, developer of Slopes here. Wait, what!? I do not use push for marketing (I hardly have a working push server). I haven't ever sent out any push notification for any reason (the recording reminders are local notifications, not server-side ones).

I do have a little in-app banner at the top of the logbook screen for messaging like prompting to create an account, or upselling premium, or other things. It has grey background, but its buttons are blue and it has a red dot on it so it doesn't look to clone the appearance of a system notification perfectly or anything (it isn't even pinned to the top of the screen or anything, where notifications come from). Maybe you thought it was a notification? But it can only occur in-app, on one screen, and is in no way a violation of Apple's ToS.

Edit: Screenshot of the in-app banner to aid discussion: https://www.dropbox.com/s/i3ib5pbfg5eid51/Screen%20Shot%2020...

Edit 2: The banner used to be all blue, which looked even less like a system notification, but I was worried it was too distracting from users' content so this season I opted for a grey background to help it blend in more.


Sorry for the kerfuffle, I mean no harm to you, your reputation & your app. I wish I had screenshotted that. I remember almost reaching out to you on Twitter about it, but thought "hey it's the first one I'll let it slide". I vaguely remember it about the premium subscription, which I found odd. I was not pissed, just surprised. Was it push or local notification? I can't say if I can accurately tell them apart, in my opinion a notification is a notification. It was definitely not in-app as unfortunately I won't get to ride this season so I haven't opened the app in a year :( It was around Christmas or New Year IIRC

Also, I used Slopes as an example because it's the most recent one but frankly it's far from the egregious stuff others pull, especially Apple and the few other developers mentioned in this thread.

No worries, if I was a bad actor you'd be doing the right thing, and as many have already pointed out more often than not it is a bad actor. It's tough (trying to be) of the good guys not abusing the system chasing revenue at all costs, no worries.

I don't use local push notifications for advertising, either. I use them for A) location-based recording reminders created by users and B) notifications when a recording from the Watch is synced to your phone and ready to view, since that can take a minute or so if you're off wifi.

I remember one person reaching out shortly after the iOS 13 launch that I trigged the "Slopes has been using your location in the background" notification when I wasn't recording, which was an error on my side and I fixed that right away.

I did have an email or two go out around Christmas for a giveaway, so I certainly had some email marketing in play then. Maybe Slopes appeared in a notification from your mail client? But Slopes itself did not trigger any notification, push or local, for that campaign.

You can report it to Apple that the app is abusing notifications and give them a screenshot and they will action it. Before that, you can probably try reaching out to the developer with an email and an app review though.

Sadly the developer will play dumb and Apple will do nothing about it. Seen that, been there, nothing has changed ever. The only recourse is to disable notifications for that particular app.

I have emailed a developer in the past and they apologized and as far as I remember, I haven't had that issue since then. So I think it depends upon each developer.

Apple is not allowing notifications in Safari browser iOS. Maybe For UX (they say) or differentiation for native apps (their P&L sheet says)

- Happy iOS user and web entrepreneur.

True! I'm glad too they decided not to implement web notifications, and keep to their word about it.

IMO the only way those notifications should be allowed to even be prompted for is after pinning a site to your home screen.

I’m not sure if iOS does this for any other permissions, but it would be natural to allow additional prompts for access to APIs that are otherwise banned - based on if the web app is pined / “installed”.

> I love Slopes and its lone developer deserves all the praise, and yet a week ago I've received an unwarranted ad for the paid subscription disguised as a notification... Not cool.

You just need to notify Apple that a particular App in the store violates their ToS.

I've done this before, and in a matter of a few days, the App is removed from the store, and the other apps of that dev are scanned for ToS violations. Then all other apps of those devs are removed from the store, and then the dev is banned from the store. If the dev wants to regain anything back, then they will have to go through a very expensive multi-month long process to achieve that.

Apple does not mess around, so I would reach to the dev of an App you like and use personally first, because the moment you notify Apple it will rain Hellfire.

I do not wish that upon any developer, especially small indie shops. So I'd probably do as you suggest.

However, I would also very much like Apple to lead by example and stop spamming its paying customers (anyone that bought an iOS or Mac product) with marketing notifications...

I'm really hoping Apple keeps a log of pushes, because they'll happily be able to tell you that the only pushes I send with Slopes are silent content-available notification for sync engine stuff. I have never sent any user-visible notification, and you're likely mistaking an in-app call-to-action as a push notification.

Apps that use push for marketing deserve hellfire, even if they are little indie shops. Being indie is no excuse for abusing things like push. We have to be scrappy, but we can do so without being spammy.

Apple should not have that kind of power, though. They have been wrong before.

Instead, the scrutiny and investigations should be public so that the developer can defend themselves.

> Apple should not have that kind of power, though.

Oh, but I’m happy they do

Also, notifications go via apple’s servers, you can’t really force them to deliver everybody’s notifications for free and without any discretion

Theses marketplaces require transparency, accountability, right to appeal, adjudicators, and so forth.

In other words, the rule of law and a fair impartial court system.

More details on that example of Apple breaking their own guidelines:


Especially with the last two versions of iOS, Apple has made it easy to turn off and change the notification types when you get a notification from an app. Almost all of my notifications are silent on my phone.

Yep, notification ads are forbidden in Apple. I am sure that there are some bad apples but overall the notifications are about stuff happening, not stuff that someone wants to sell me.

I keep hearing that iOS should catch up with Android notifications, that Apple is so far behind but when I look at an Android phone it just feels overwhelming. I literally have better things to do than studying the information and action options in the notifications.

Notifications should be treated as an extremely premium attention grab. I like Apple's way of doing it much, much better than Android and I feel unease when I think about someone in Apple, hears the Android-like notifications and thinks it's a good idea.

I haven't noticed more notification spam in Google apps, but what I have noticed is the way better notification management in recent years.

I can long press on notifications and directly block it forever or finely tune the App sending it what it is allowed to send etc.

Last time I used an iPhone I still had to double swipe to even dismiss a notification, which is super annoying because most are probably spam.

If Notifications on iOS were as good as on Android I would instantly switch.

>* I can long press on notifications and directly block it forever or finely tune the App sending it what it is allowed to send etc.*

Apple improved that on iOS, see the screenshots here: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201925

Also, I just aggressively remove apps that try to show spam notifications.

On ios every app has to ask permission before the first notification, so you will not get the spammy ones in the first place.

I agree with your point that android is making management much easier though.

But apps request permission to do functionality-related things and then spam you. Grab, a ride-hailing app I used in SE Asia, was terrible for this.

On iOS 12 and above apps can post provisional notifications without consent: https://developer.apple.com/documentation/usernotifications/...

They can, but I’ve literally never seen this used in practice as an iOS dev that is regularly trying out all the latest apps.

These notifications go straight into Notification Center, which means if you never swipe down to look at notifications, you’ll never even see them (They don’t show a banner, or even on the lock screen.) That limits their value to the marketing people looking to juice their engagement numbers with spam push notifications.

iOS 12 and 13 improved notifications on the iPhone - you can now do the same thing (Swipe -> Manage and you can either turn off notifications for the app, or have them only show in Notification Center and not as a banner.)

And a partial swipe brings up the three notification options, a full swipe dismisses it.

I've recently switched from Android to iOS after a long time praising Android as the holy grail, for the exact same reasons mentioned by you and in this thread. It is an absolute delight to use and I couldn't be happier.

I use Lineage OS + microg with no Google apps on a compatible phone and I experience zero Google. Else, I seem to be able to enjoy Android to its fullest, using the Aurora app store.

Lineage OS might be a viable alternative for people who prefer Android but disdain Google.

This is great for technical people but it’s easy to forget most people have no ability to achieve what you describe by themselves.

I'm doing something similar on my Pixel 2.

In the end I have very few apps that send personal data to ad companies (I've blocked as many ad and tracker networks as I could), and I've prevented most apps from showing me notifications unless I really want them.

You'd be surprised how much battery you save with all those things disabled.

Battery was my biggest surprise. WiFi is off when screen is off and I get two days out of a charge on an old S7.

Yup, searched for this comment, doing the same thing on my Mi A3. Besides on Android you can just set up Blokada, its dead simple and resolves all the ADS, operating system and others...

I had no idea about microg. That's very useful.

> Google recently stepped up its notification spam in their official apps

Really? Which ones? I have a pixel 2 and haven't experienced this. I have the Assistant turned off - could that be why?

I'm not a fan of overdone notifications either. If it helps in the short term, long-pressing on a notification should give you easy access to the ability to disable it.

I think it was android 9 that added the ability to do this. Swipe the notification > settings wheel > disable notifications for that app (or you can just disable specific types of notifications if there's still things you want to see).

It got easier again with android 10 with the options available directly from the notification itself (after a swipe).

> I paid a premium for a high-end flagship Google phone.

This is surprising to me. All the messaging from the phone companies makes it seem like they are essentially giving them away.

I like lots of things about Apple software, but feel a lot less respected than with Google's.

While the price you pay with Google is annoyances through ads, the price you pay for Apple (besides the hardware being 3x as expensive as comparable Android hardware) is just not being able to do things. You can't side load apps without some people with years of experience putting all of their time and energy into breaking the software! I can't make a computer I own actually run the programs I want!

Add to that a complete lack of choice. Their hardware is admittedly quite good in many regards, but I'd like to charge using a normal connector [USB-C] since I don't want to carry another set of cables or adapters for the oh so special Apple, and retain the ability to play music through a damn cable without needing another expensive, flimsy and not-on-me-when-i-need-it adapter. Oh, they're absolutely hostile against repair.

I could probably go on, but you might get the point. That's peak disrespect to me, so I'll despise them for that and not buy an Apple device in the foreseeable future, even though I like many aspects about them. Oh, the ecosystem lock-in and the absolute unfair promotion of their own, inferior services. Anyway.

I understand what you're saying, but at least for me it's not so bad.

I started using Android from the G1, and was a massive fun of customising my phone with custom ROMS, etc. I eventually switched to iPhone and whilst I have jailbroken my phone before, I reverted it when I realised I didn't have much reason to need a jailbreak on my phone. I would still love the ability to sideload, but if that's my tradeoff for not using Google I'll take it.

Carrying a cable has never personally been a problem for me but again, it depends on a few factors (most of my company uses Macs, with cables required for the keyboard and mouse so there's always one laying around).

I personally use an iPod Video for music, as I prefer to either download my music from Bandcamp or buy and rip CDs. I find it a much nicer experience. I do carry the dongle around in my backpack on the rare occasion I need it, but my headphones are bluetooth (although I really only use the 35mm jack).

Repairability is not an issue at all, as far as I'm concerned. I've replaced personally the screen, charging port and battery and it probably took all of an hour to do. Buying the parts was easy and quite cheap, and fitting was a breeze thanks for iFixit.

Also, you're only locked in if you choose to me. The only things I have synced to iCloud are my contacts (also backed up via CalDav to my email provider) and Photos (backed up on my home network). Admittedly I'd have to buy apps again if I moved to a new platform, but that's the case with Android too.

How do you backup your photos to your home network? Been wanting to do this for ages!

Using the iCloud Windows app. It syncs folders to a drive you choose. That drive gets backed up with Backblaze.

I also have photo syncing turned on for OneDrive and Google Photos.

An app called PhotoSync is fantastic - can backup to cloud services, WebDAV, SMB and others. They recently introduced auto backup when charging.

The app has really positive reviews...

Lightning cables are more popular than USB-C cables at this point. If I'm at a party or something usually someone has an iPhone cable, USB-C, not so much.

To be honest with an iPhone there's not much reason to want to sideload anything. Sideloading on Android is dodgy enough with dodgy APKs. Who knows what they're doing in the background? At least with the App Store (and Play Store for that matter) being a walled garden, for both it's positives and negatives, you know an app has been vetted and is safe from malware.

> Lightning cables are more popular than USB-C cables at this point. If I'm at a party or something usually someone has an iPhone cable, USB-C, not so much.

Of all the people in the local LGBT center, zero had a lightning cable available, one had a microUSB cable (with USB-C adapter), and everyone else (> 2 dozen) only had USB-C cables, when a person with iPhone asked if anyone had a charging cable.

So maybe in the US, where due to higher wages (even if the percentage of income that's disposable is the same) people have higher disposable income, people buy iPhones. But from what I've seen in Germany, almost everyone has Android.

I'm Dutch, I definitely see more iPhones in business settings. But generally it's a healthy mix of Android and iPhones when I'm at a party or somesuch.

> Sideloading on Android is dodgy enough with dodgy APKs.

Sideloading is what allows to use third party app stores like F-Droid and to run apps Google banned like Blokada (system-wide ad-blocker).

Funny, it's the exact opposite for me.

What happens now? Do our anecdata cancel each other out, or?

> Lightning cables are more popular than USB-C cables at this point.

But in 2 years at most will be the other way round (especially outside the US)

Funnily enough, when I need a USB-C cable to charge my phone, I'm usually able to borrow one from a friend who uses USB-C to charge their Macbook...

Good job signaling that both you and your social circles have a certain degree of affluence.

I live in the SFBA, hang out with people at all income levels, and I'd say over 70% use Android. Among richer people it's more 50-50.

It's pretty easy to get USB-C chargers among my friends.

Almost anyone can afford an iPhone. All four major carriers and Apple offer no interest payment plans. Spread over 24 months, the difference between an iPhone and an Android phone is negligible.

If having an iPhone is a symbol of “affluence”, half of the US is affluent.

Your anecdotal evidence doesn’t jibe with broader statistics.

Edit: For complete transparency, I am seeing ranges from 42% - 50% market share in the US depending on the site.


Just to add to what you said, in 2020 you still can't set a systemwide browser on iOS, something you've been able to do on every other platform since the mid 1990s.

Sure, but Google/Android has added fine grain GPS permissions in Android 10+ so we have the option to say "just track when using app" instead of "no" or "all the time".

The problem, now, is rolling it out due to fragmentation.

This is great, and everything you’ve said is true.

But the change in iOS13 is the regularly occurring pop up alert to prompt users to pick a lower permission for apps they don’t use often that are also tracking location.

As others have mentioned, iOS has had the fine grain permission for a while. What’s new is the regular prompt.

Android 10 also has a similar prompt via notifications.

thankfully most people use android 10 as regularly as later iOS versions.

I really wish iOS and Android would implement coarse grain location. My weather app doesn't need to know where I am exactly, within a couple of miles is usually fine. The "find the nearest store" just needs to know within a few blocks. The problem with GPS level location is that if I'm at home, I'm nearly personally identified.

If I know the rough location of your work and the rough location of your home I can almost certainly identify you: https://crypto.stanford.edu/~pgolle/papers/commute.pdf

Don't quote me on this, but I believe iOS already has this.. But it's the developer that needs to say they'll use this type of location data - which of course they won't.

Android has had that distinction since version 1, actually.


Some apps do use coarse permission (which maps roughly to wifi/cell tower location).

Yes, but I can't say "sorry, you're only getting coarse location" to an app that wants precise location permission.

So we'll start seeing that on a significant percentage of Android devices around, um... 2025, then? Man I do not miss the horrible support for updates in that ecosystem one bit.


I don't think Google originally planned it this way, but their release strategy gives them an interesting gradient of users that I think benefits them. (This is entirely off the cuff, I may be sticking my foot in my mouth.)

Early adapters, who are more likely to engage with the bigger questions raised by tech, are likely to use new devices with the latest revision of what Google thinks you should share with the advertising world - lately, this has been giving users slightly more control. Meanwhile, older and cheaper devices (a much larger segment) mostly run older OSes that more more data-sponge-friendly.

So the picky and wealthier customers have reason to tell others "Google is getting better" while everyone else keeps feeding the beast.

Yes, you're right.

The inference you haven't made yet is what the proportions of the users in the "early adopter" and "general user" categories are in countries that are NOT the United States or Europe.

Hint: most of Google's Android users aren't in the US or Europe at all. Instead they're in countries where there are much more pressing social, political, or economic issues for governments to address that easily sideline privacy concerns with minimal lobbying funds.

On the flip side of this, Apple can focus on privacy and security as a brand largely because their customer base consists almost entirely of the affluent and business class of society worldwide. Everyone who would otherwise be exploitable is priced out.

Yep. I'm sorry to say a lot of people here have a fundamentally imperialist stance towards the rest of the world. It comes out in all sorts of ways. Of course, we're not the only country with that outlook, just (currently) the dominant one.

I agree with everything you wrote, but note that Apple's attempt to brand itself as privacy aware is self serving and works only because privacy is such a vague topic the population doesn't really know how to reason precisely about it. Their affluent users don't actually care more than anyone else, but it lets them virtue signal to their friends a little bit without having to make any actual sacrifices of features or usability.

Take the end to end encryption in iMessage. It doesn't mean anything: like all such schemes Apple can push a new key to your friends phones, or a software update that selectively disables it, at any time they want. There may already be back doors there nobody knows about. The user could never detect this nor do anything about it even if they did. But Apple use it to claim they care about privacy.

On advertising, Apple only decided advertising was bad and privacy invasive after their own iAd initiative flopped completely. When Jobs thought Apple could compete directly with Google on advertising he was all about how beautiful and usable Apple ads would be.

Apple's all about privacy except they want you to upload everything to their cloud. They're all about privacy except they have root on all your devices. Note: this is unlike Android, where the root keys for the devices are owned by OEMs who sandbox and review/audit Google's software, and the OEMs in turn don't have access to the Google cloud data. Some Android devices don't even use Google services at all.

For Apple privacy is a marketing angle. It can be seen in the way the latest iOS/Android versions don't differ from each other in any significant respects.

A wonderful system were the tech illiterate remains an everlasting source of personal information for sale on ad exchanges.

It is almost irrelevant for existing users what has been added in Android version n + 1, because they will never get updated to n + 1. The joys of the Android vendor ecosystem. Even very expensive phones like Sony get about 1 (mid) or 2 (high-end) major upgrade only, and that's still not guaranteed. Project Treble did nothing to fix this.

We should just force companies by law to provide software patches for anything that can connect to a network for at least five years, better ten, or be liable for security problems.

Then they will provide something. In the best case regular security updates, I can imagine any reasonable way to force them to add new features during support period.

It's trivial, actually.

Google would need to make it a requirement for bundling their services. Since the major distributers are utterly dependent on Google/Android, they'd do it.

Making it a legal requirement would be challenging, but making it a de facto requirement for all major phone vendors is easy.

> The joys of the Android vendor ecosystem.

Even when going with official Google phones: my Nexus 5 is way out of date OS-wise.

My Google Pixel 1 stopped getting even security updates recently, and it's the last flagship Google phone with headphone port.

Your Nexus 5 came out 7 years ago, it's unreasonable to expect that the latest Android would even run properly on it when the rest of the world has moved on.

Why? A 7 year old midrange PC or laptop will run latest Windows or Linux just fine.

> it's unreasonable

Is it? Slower than on more recent ones I agree. But processors architecture and components has not changed a lot.

If Microsoft manages 10 years on wildly more diverse hardware with their OS, I don't see why it is not possible on official Google phones.

my iphone 6s receives iOS updates to this day. it eats through the battery like there's no tomorrow but it works well otherwise.

This is unfortunately why in my opinion there is no way around installing a custom ROM (requiring you to buy a phone with good community support).

An added benefit of that is a removal of the manufacturer's bloat ware and the ability to compile things yourself, allowing you to modify everything.

If there's no good unofficial/open source software for the device, don't buy it or you're going to be miserable in 0-2 years.

All Android phones before P are vulnerable to a flaw that allows background camera use:


That might actually be the majority of active Android devices if you look at the marketshare statistics.

I think it's actually somewhat embarrassing that the tech industry hasn't been able to provide a low cost, reasonably secure smartphone platform that can be used for more than a year or two. The only people who can remain secure are the ones who can afford either new Android phones or slightly less new iPhones.

Security is like a luxury item, and the worst part is that most people don't even realize it.

There are GNU/Linux phones around now (the Librem 5, though it may still be stuck as WIP, and the PinePhone, which I think had a first batch sent out a while ago), but the app support will be lacking and they'll likely be stuck as niche forever.

There was windows phone, but the market wanted apps!

Related to this, I almost wanted to mention the “sins” of the major platforms.

Android: not fixing fragmentation after all this time. Essentially, people with less money get less security.

Apple: not making true budget phones with the same lengthy support windows, though this might change as they emphasize services.

Microsoft: leaving the smartphone market entirely. I used to use Windows Phone and it was clearly better than Android. Android was slow and getting updates was a pipe dream. Windows Phone was like a less locked-down iPhone, and around Windows Phone 8.1 the app marketplace wasn’t half bad.

Had Microsoft put out quality flagship phones consistently on a yearly basis on all four major US carriers, they’d still be making smartphones. But people who wanted windows phones were stuck waiting for Microsoft to reorganize Nokia while they mostly crapped out budget phones and had one or two outdated flagship exclusive to a particular carrier.

Windows Phone 10 arrived too late, it wasn’t as good of an update as 8.1, and it arrived after a long drought of phones.

That's not "vulnerable to a flaw". You make it sound like there's some sort of security bug or buffer overflow in the OS that lets any app turn on the camera at will.

The "flaw" is that apps you explicitly gave permission to use the camera, can use it! All they've done in P is notice that they can tighten the permission even further so the app has to be in the foreground to use that permission.

The lack of this wasn't a vulnerability though. Mobile operating systems have been implementing finer grained permissions and security through their entire lifespans. For sure that trend will continue. If we spin every improvement to privacy controls as "fixing a vulnerability" it's just a form of crying wolf that will lead people to ignore security updates even more than they already do.

The parent didn't say "vulnerability" in the "security vulnerability" sense. They sad "vulnerable to a flaw", i.e. there is a design flaw and those versions have that design flaw - meaning users of it are vulnerable to apps taking advantage of that design flaw. I'd say it leaves users "vulnerable", and it's definitely a "flaw". It may be an API working as intended - but that doesn't mean it isn't flawed to the point of being embarrassing.

Reading this it seems to imply that iOS doesn't support this (sorry if not!), but it does and has for a very long time.

wrong implication, you're right.

Google Services commonly exempt themselves from those kinds of "privacy protections". Google's happy protecting your privacy from other companies, just as long as they continue to get special access.

I got one of those today for Waze. I set it to only collect when it's in use.

I'm not talking about Google's apps, I'm talking about Google Services. This is the system library that sits just above Android itself and is used as a dependency by most third-party Android apps these days. An app asks for your location? They aren't asking Android for it, they're asking Google for it. See more details here: https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2018/07/googles-iron-grip-on...

Not only do I like having the ability to limit GPS per app, but I can also disable background data and enforce 'energy saver mode' (aka make background tasks infrequent) on an individual app basis.

Except you can't for Google Play Services, the key "app" that every other app needs for all the Google APIs. So sure, individual apps can't get your local, but Google still can almost always.

We can also easily mock GPS on Android and there are apps for that.

Great, you've covered 0.1% of the Android user base.

Are we talking about things we like, use and do, or are we in a pissing contest about who's team is winning?

Apps can detect this, and some apps will ban you if you mock your location.

Wait, they'll ban me from their privacy-invading malvertising? Where do I sign up?

yay "solutions"

Average users won't disable tracking unless prompted.

Which is why Android now has a prompt.

iOS has had this for several major versions.

iOS also has this feature so I’m not sure what your point is.

I think their point was that Android users are now similarly empowered to block "offline" tracking. ("offline" meaning "when the app isn't open"). Further, maybe it's that true if that feature were a true existential threat to Google, they wouldn't have implemented it in Android.

There’s two things about iOS that bothers me, privacy wise:

- Apple still makes money off of ads, creating a conflict of interest. By default, users have a unique tracking/advertising ID attached to their phone.

- iOS is extremely restrictive, making certain privacy adjustments impossible.

"By default, users have a unique tracking/advertising ID attached to their phone."

Google has the same thing, and with apple if you care you can opt out.

"When Limit Ad Tracking is enabled on iOS 10 or later, the Advertising Identifier is replaced with a non-unique value of all zeros to prevent the serving of targeted ads. It is automatically reset to a new random identifier if you disable Limit Ad Tracking."

So this is a positive in apple's case over google privacy wise, not a negative against google.

"- iOS is extremely restrictive, making certain privacy adjustments impossible."

Generally you can't get unremovable malaware installed on an iphone you buy from apple. If this type of privacy restriction makes you choose android privacy invading phones - go for android. Many people like the locked down Apple setup.

> Generally you can't get unremovable malaware installed on an iphone.

Apple uses FUD to justify restricting users from doing what they want with their phone.

> If this type of privacy restriction makes you choose android privacy invading phones - go for android.

This is not what I’m talking about. I want to be able to use tools such as NetGuard to enhance privacy, which iOS doesn’t allow.

"FUD" isn't so uncertain when there is known widespread android malware. iOS malware only happens in extreme cases (like ransomware via a bad profile https://i.blackhat.com/briefings/asia/2018/asia-18-Zhu-and-L... ), via something like XcodeGhost, or via safari tech support scams. Just look at how stark of contrast there is between the lists of malware for both devices - https://www.cyber.nj.gov/threat-profiles/android-malware-var... and https://www.cyber.nj.gov/threat-profiles/ios/#list-of-known-....

Have you read what types of malware is on the list? "Download and install this app from sketchy place" kind of thing...

> you can't get unremovable malaware installed on an iphone you buy from apple.

This is simply not true. iOS also allows "supervisor" apps (see MDM) that are extremely difficult to remove later, perhaps even more difficult than android.

I know because I used to work at company that did a kids protection app.

Apple cracked down on those recently, and has added support for MDM with a lighter touch in recent versions of iOS.

Marketing spin, these apps are still in the appstore right now.

> Google has the same thing, and with apple if you care you can opt out.

I'm not on Android any more, but (afair) you could reset the advertising ID, which in practice is not that different from only being able to disable it temporarily.

Yes, but the ease of use and prominence of the feature make a difference. If I have to manually reset the ID, well, forget it. If the operating system automatically does it for me - then that is far superior.

Oh, yes. That’s what I meant and tried to express, poorly.

The UX makes a huge difference here, a feature is available in theory, but realistically speaking, inaccessible and annoying to the point of uselessness.

The phone id is only one way you are tracked.

You are being tracked in multiple places, at the ISP level, at the geo level, cookie and account level, and I don't know where else.

Being able to reset your phone ID is insufficient given all the other ways you can be tracked.

With Apple, maybe they're the lesser of two evils, but there is still a lot of room they could improve if they really wanted.

The aforementioned iOS restrictions block you from being able to implement all the available privacy tools.

Being able to implement all those privacy controls is a double edged sword. There's a certain amount of security you get from not ever having root access. It depends on your threat model.

Also keep in mind the more control users have to install things like that, the more differentiated each user will become.

This is one of the paradoxes that exist with certain tracking protections that exist today. Eg. Enabling Do Not Track or fingerprint blocking could make you easier to track. Though these are becoming more ubiquitous, and therefore harder to use to track you, as browsers make them the default settings.

> By default, users have a unique tracking/advertising ID attached to their phone.

My understanding is that this tracking ID was a replacement for apps being able to obtain the devices serial number. The tracking ID is unique per developer (edit: not true, it is unique per device, so multiple devs can build a profile on you) and can be reset by the user at any time.

I don’t believe the IDFA is unique per developer (assuming I’m understanding you correctly).

I use analytics in my company’s app and I get my team to send me their IDFA by downloading a free app from the App Store. The IDFA in my analytics is the same IDFA in the 3rd party app.

There is an IDFA (ID for Advertisers) and an IDFV (ID for Vendors).

The IDFV is unique per developer; the IDFA is unique per device.

The device user can reset their IDFA at any time, and if the user disables ad tracking then the device returns 00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000.

Yes but in practice, users never do, and when they do a reset, fingerprinting employed by most (all?) ad exchanges can make the association without issue.

AFAIK they make money off of non-tracked ads, eg. app store contextualized ads. The advertising ID only makes them money in the sense that more people might buy due to being able to reset this ID, Apple doesn't directly make money off of this (the ID is a string adtech can use to generate a profile instead of via fingerprinting, there isn't some API adtech has to use to use this unique ID).

Yes. But FWIW, a user can reset their "Advertising Identifier" anytime they want:

    Settings -> Privacy -> Advertising -> Reset Advertising Identifier...
Now if iOS was more hacker friendly, I'd write an app to automate that action and have it run regularly or on a random schedule or something.

> Now if iOS was more hacker friendly, I'd write an app to automate that action and have it run regularly or on a random schedule or something.

Of course you never mentioned Android in your post, but I just want to point out that Android in no way is more hacker-friendly. As soon as you obtain root access half of apps will stop to be feature-complete because Google have SafetyNet and there is no way at all to make your own legit "hacker" apps trusted to use elevated privileges. How is your phone is useful if part of games wont work, streaming wont work, banking apps dont work, etc.

Of course they sell it under sauce of anti-malware and "security", but it's Android have anti-consumer DRM system that make your compromise between useful apps and whatever hacks you wish to apply. So not that much more useful compared to jailbroken iOS.

> there is no way at all to make your own legit "hacker" apps trusted to use elevated privileges

Of course there is. To circumvent this closed apple-esque bullshit you can just install magisk.

My point is that Android as platform don't have this feature and it's vendor only care about interests of carriers, pro-DRM media companies and own ads business.

Magisk is never ending cat and mouse game and at any moment Google can just add some hardware-backed privileged rootkit that not going to be easy to bypass. So it's not always usable for every app out there.

Well, the checkbox right above the UI option you pointed out will zero-out your identifier.

Why not just turn off the tracking identifier?

I suppose part of me hopes that spotty or misleading data disrupts advertising models more than an absence of data. I may be wrong.

Fair enough!

Not really, dropping private data from the ad industry might make certain ads perform worse, but it will also remove information on why. In the end the ad dollars will still be spent, and Google and others will profit.

The only potential harm to Google is that if advertisers go back to choosing publishers based on reputation alone, the need for Google as a middleman to lots of third parties is reduced so they will only earn the big bucks from their own properties.

I have never owned an ios device in my life and strongly avoid them but this makes drift slightly over considering one. If apple allowed easily sideloading apps I would consider moving over.

“ If apple allowed easily sideloading apps I would consider moving over.”

This was the reason I was an android guy until my wife told me to just get a phone that works.

And you know what? Not letting you side load is a feature. When you see it like that, you care a lot less about your phone, and just appreciate that it works and that you can trust it as your more intimate possessions .

Without sideloading I can't use a 3rd party youtube app that has no ads, no tracking and allows downloads. I also can't use my pebble watch because the official app is unsupported and only community supported software exists. I also am restricted from some content that android users of the same app can view because apple prohibits adult content inside of apps.

I see a phone as a tool to do what the user needs. Not the user doing what the phone will allow.

I have a little "share" button on my iPhone that invokes Youtube-DL via Pythonista, so I can open any Youtube video and get a locally saved copy pretty much instantly. I can use VLC to stream YouTube videos without ads.

There's a bunch of apps that let you load pretty much arbitrary code onto the platform - Pythonista and Scriptable are two of the top ones (Python and JS interpreters respectively), and with those you can do quite a lot.

It's not the same experience - that I'll grant you - but if you're moderately a power user iOS gives you enough to work with.

Oh, and apparently there's a new contender too - Play.js includes a fully functional Node.js implementation with support for npm (via package.json dependencies). So now you can basically use any NPM package on iOS. I can already tell that I'm going to get a lot of mileage out of it :)

That’s really smart! Could you share your script (as a Gist or something) I’d really like to use it.

I know this is a privileged position, but I just solved that by paying your YouTube premium which gets rid of ads and allows me to download.

The problem with YouTube Premium is that it doesn't solve the tracking aspect of it. If anything, it gives Google validated identity & billing details about you which makes the situation worse from a privacy point of view.

I'm a heavy YouTube user and would be happy to pay for it. Yet, I can't do so without agreeing to their insane "privacy" policy and providing personal details to a company that has proven its bad faith countless times with all the dark patterns & invasive tracking.

In other words, you solved it by not stealing.

My workaround for YouTube (on both iOS and macOS) is to use an RSS reader like News Explorer (it natively supports subscribing to YouTube URLs and syncs via iCloud) and then just watching via the browser with a content blocker (AdGuard) that seems to block the ads & cancer on YouTube pages.

This also allows you to subscribe to channels without having a Google account and agreeing to their "privacy" policy.

> I can't use a 3rd party youtube app that has no ads, no tracking and allows downloads.

It's called YouTube Premium. It's funny how we Hacker News users complain about services like YouTube and say we'd pay, but very few do.

I'm not complaining. I have a setup that works well for me. It just isn't possible on iOS.

I agree in principle, but if you want to get your Pebble working, check out “Rebble”. I’m happily using my old Pebble steel smart watch with iOS!

Potentially more on topic though, Apple gives significantly more functionality to the Apple Watch that third-party devices will simply never have access to. That’s the kind of lock-in I am annoyed about when it comes to iOS. Google play music will always be a second-class citizen compared to Apple Music, as is Google maps compared to Apple Maps. OneDrive and Fropbox will never be allowed to match the built-in functionality of iTunes back up. Flux can’t work on iOS, you’re stuck with the built-in Night Shift. Third-party keyboards are finally allowed, but they’re definitely second-class citizens and tend to not work very well due to operating system limitations.

Without sideloading I can't use a 3rd party youtube app that has no ads

What now? Safari + an ad blocker work just fine.

I just have AdBlock Plus installed and enabled for Safari on my iPhone. Haven't seen any ads on YouTube for quite some time now if I am viewing it on Safari. Only downside is that I have to click the cancel button everytime YouTube shows a pop up to open the link in the app.

You’re seeing it as a computer. It’s a phone.

This is the typical response I expected. "Your using it wrong!!"

Explain to me why the use case of using youtube without adverts or connecting my phone to my smartwartch is invalid.

That doesn't mean he's wrong.

I've chosen not to "see" my phone as a computer, you as well. I treat mine as an appliance - not even as a phone really, it's significantly more a Messenger (Signal mostly), a music player, a web browser, and RSS reader, a camera, and a book. I hardly ever make/receive calls on mine.

But you can't argue that his choice isn't valid for him.

"watch videos" and "connect to a smart watch" are some of the primary uses of a smart phone. What are you even trying to say?

Strongly agree. When I was younger and had free time to tinker I loved highly customizing my phone. But now I have so many things I'd rather be doing. I just want the defaults to take me 90% of the way there.

If I spend more than 20 mins a month "managing" my phone, I'm irritated.

This is also true for me. It's a feature I appreciate a lot.

There was a time when I actively enjoyed sysadminning and updating and securing all my personal computers. But many of "computers" are now closer to "appliances" and the last thing I want to spend time on weekends/evening these days is poking at the OS on my phone (or my book or my coffee machine or or or)

I'm happy to have "let go" and chosen "I'll do things with my phone Steve's way, or I won't do them. I'm happy to 'hold it right', and not be able to install aircrack-ng or crypto miners or whatever, so long as Apple keep it updated and secure and private to an acceptable level."

When I want to geek out, I have a drawer full of Raspberry Pis, various linux and bsd boxes, and an AWS account. (I do also have a Apple Dev account, so I can "side load" weird shit if I choose. I have not done that on my everyday iPhone since about my 4GS...)

I need my phone to work properly at 7:30am Monday morning... It's an appliance to me, not a general purpose computing device.

You say that like a premium android phone doesn't "just work". There is nothing on android that forces you to customize things, it simply allows it.

Ahhh, no. I'm first to admit it's _me_ that's broken here.

If I can fuck with it easily, sooner or later I'll get tempted into doing so.

I appreciate having a choice that lets me force myself to say "Nope, not on the iPhone. If I want to try out $shinyThing I can do it on the older Android device, or on a spare RaspberryPi or any of the spare laptop/pcs in the workshop."

There's nothing from Apple that forces you to buy an iPhone, you're allowed to buy an Android if you choose.

Interestingly, it's _much_ harder to customise a Tesla than, say, a Mustang. I wonder which side of the "but you're taking away my rights!" argument most of the people disagreeing here fall on whether to buy a Tesla or not? (For the record, I'd like to own a Tesla and I'd happily enough "use it Elon's way", but I also like owning ~20 year old motorcycles that I can tinker with to my heart's content...)

> This was the reason I was an android guy until my wife told me to just get a phone that works.

I have not heard anything that suggests Android phones work less than iPhones. That's certainly not been my experience, anyway. I've been using Android phones for 10 years now and they've always worked just fine. And I can sideload things, which I still do, and wouldn't want to give up.

> Not letting you side load is a feature.

I absolutely do not see it that way.

Android user 8 years, iPhone 6 months.

> > Not letting you side load is a feature.

> I absolutely do not see it that way.

This is the key. Not having this option frees me from having to worry about the whole issue which is liberating. Either it's in the AppStore or it's not and I move on. With Android I spent days/weeks following whispers/rumors of such an app and trying different alternatives, rooting, etc.

It depends on how much patience and control you want. I had time for that years ago, but not now. iPhone gives you a lot less customization and control, but I spend a lot less time managing the phone and one-off issues, weird needs-fixing cases, phone-vendor specific things.

Not trying to sell you on iPhone, just saying I thought the same as you, but understand both sides of it now.

To draw the example to the extreme you might as well put a brick in your pocket. You can't do anything with it so it's liberating!

Obviously I'm being facetious, but only to illustrate that there of course is a balance between features and mind liberating. There's nothing inherent to the device, or removing functionality that liberates you. You can do that regardless of device.

I would say that anyone who would even consider it remotely desirable to be able to sideload apps has very different desires and expectations about how much they will "fiddle" with their phone to get it working they way they like. In other works, "it always worked just fine" probably means very different things to someone who would want to sideload apps than the average smartphone user who has never even heard of "sideloading."

There are many non fiddler users who use or appreciate the possibility of sideloading/alternative appstores.

The "phone that works" really needs more context. Android phones work. People are also happy to move from iPhone to Android. If you want to do crazy things that make them not work, you can, but nobody forces you to.

It's a feature until apple makes a moral call on software.

they banned all vaping-related software, but this also included apps to control folks' medical dosages of cannabis. while it was (kinda) laudible they didn't want to expose kids to smoking propaganda, I would have about 500 bucks in near-bricked devices just for switching to iOS.

Its pretty disturbing how we have a company whos products are used globally enforcing illogical American morals on the rest of the world (Apps with guns and violence are totally ok but anything with nudity is unthinkable).

Its also really bad for small business when they are forced to depend on apple for profits and literally get destroyed when apple decides their app is no longer suitable.

In my experience, a good Android phone and a good iPhone both "just work" out of the box for 98% of my uses. The main reason I tend to use Android phones is that in the 2% of situations when something doesn't work the way I want/need it to, I have the option to do something about it.

I don't go sideloading every random app I dig up from freeappzlol.ru or whatever, but I also don't need to be restricted to a single software repo when I want something like systemwide ad blocking or a youtube app that plays with the screen off (two things Google would prefer to restrict).

And when the device gets old and slow and stops getting official support, I can flash a slimmed down ROM that allows me to use it as a basic streaming source or fancy remote control or whatever because it's possible to install another OS or build on deprecated hardware much as I would on an old laptop or desktop that gets turned into a Linux box for web browsing or network storage.

I only speak for myself and definitely see your angle, but to me, taking away options doesn't really lead to increased peace of mind. Having the ability to do something doesn't equal having to do something...but in the event that I want to do something, I like knowing I'm able.

> Not letting you side load is a feature.

No. It's not. Stop, seriously.

"Not letting you vote is a feature."

"Not letting you complain is a feature."

"Not letting you speak is a feature."

"Not letting you have free will is a feature."

"Not letting you use your body as you wish is a feature."

This is how we lose our digital rights. Stop buying into this utter horse shit.

We have the right to repair our devices, run whatever code we want on them, the right to sell them, and not be spied upon by them.

Single data point. For me it _is_ a feature. It stops me getting sidetracked by shiny new interesting projects and installing them on my primary phone. I value that.

But being absolutist about it is just foolish.

It doesn't surprise me that a significant portion of HN readers want to use their pocket computer as a general purpose computer, capable of having anything the user chooses installed on it. I'm one of the HN readers who prefers _not_ to have that temptation (although I do have an Android phone for "playing with" and an Apple dev account and my previous few iPhones which I can run whatever code I choose).

On the other hand, my mom's "right to repair her device, run whatever code she wants on it" is a _way way_ lower priority for her than "Is reasonably safe downloading anything from the AppStore and running it, and has (arguably) industry best security and privacy while doing so".

(And comparing that iOS/Android choice to "Not letting you vote" is unhelpful hyperbole. You are likely to get taken way less seriously than you intend if you're using reality-defying comparisons like that...)

Perhaps not allowing side loading decreases the likelihood of malware and security exploits.

Not letting you speak prevents you from saying something stupid.

Android already provides plenty of warnings and confirmations before allowing you to sideload. But in the end if you go through all of that you agree to take up the responsibility.

"don't install software because it could be bad"

> And you know what? Not letting you side load is a feature.

Apps released under the GPL are banned from the App Store.

Not true, VLC is GPL and on the app store

It is true. GPL apps are banned from the App Store because Apple’s TOS is incompatible with the license.

VLC for iOS is bi-licensed under MPLv2 and GPL [0].

[0]: https://thenextweb.com/apps/2013/07/18/vlc-for-ios-will-retu...

Not true. VLC had to change its license to be allowed on the app store https://www.openlogic.com/blog/vlc-license-change-lesson-per...

Or you just decide to not sideload on Android. Problem solved.

I fail to see it as a feature.

Would you feel the same way about someone planning all your meals? Where you work? Where you sleep? It's beneficial to resist control even when that control seems beneficial at first. In the end, only you have your own best interest in mind.

>If apple allowed easily sideloading apps I would consider moving over.

This is definitely the major pain point. For device owner controlled root software cert (and independently device owner controlled hardware cert too) I'd certainly like it to be an option of some kind, because there are real tradeoffs between security and configurability here. It could for example be restricted to an order-time config, or maybe a one-time significant charge. I could even accept certain kinds of measures by Apple to combat piracy and cheating, with owner signed apps segregated somewhat say or some low level signing merely to indicate that it wasn't a restricted device. But it's definitely objectively proved to cause real problems to have Apple be the sole legitimate gatekeeper. A single central point can be an advantage in resisting certain kinds of attacks, but simultaneously a disadvantage in being subject to other kinds of social and economic pressure. Jailbreaking has also demonstrated lots of extremely useful functionality and apps that aren't allowed vanilla.

Unfortunately I doubt it gets resolved without legislation mandating that hardware owners should have the option to load root level signing certs, which leaves everyone forced to make some hard tradeoffs. Hopefully society eventually catches up with that, but in the mean time one ameliorating factor is its becoming ever more feasible to just own a couple of devices for specific purposes thanks to the improvement curve flattening out. Particularly with Apple, they've got long enough support cycles now that getting a 2-3 year old phone still leaves at least a few years of support but the discount vs new hardware is high too.

You can install root certs by deploying a device profile:


Sideloading on iOS is as easy as installing the free Cydia Compactor on your PC or laptop and dropping an app on it.

The downside is that self-signed certificates only last seven days unless you have a paid developer account, but if you're comfortable with jailbreaking (which is even easier than sideloading since you can do it just by tapping a link in Safari on iOS) then you can install Reprovision which automatically renews certificates for you every few days.

> Cydia Compactor

Cydia Impactor

> which is even easier than sideloading since you can do it just by tapping a link in Safari on iOS

Jailbreaking is not "easy" (a number of devices today have no public jailbreaks) and web-based jailbreaks are quite rare.

for most people the last thing they want is to add another app on their phone. but somehow the need for more apps is what keeps you away?

I probably use less apps than the average person. I refuse to use almost all corporations apps and sideload on a selection of trusted open source apps from f-droid. Some of which are not allowed on the play store because they limit googles ability to track and profit.

I don't think anyone has an issue installing another app for a feature the phone doesn't have.

My concern is that they could let the opportunity pass if they keep being sloppy with the quality of their software. The quality & user experience of both macOS and iOS have been going downhill for years. The music app is a complete shit-show for example and is a significant downgrade from its former self a decade ago. The same can be said for many built-in apps and parts of the OS.

I don't get it, where do you see ads in android? If anything I use android for the ad-less experience, youtube vanced etc.

The Play store is full of ads. (Sadly, the App Store has ads now too.)

Google Maps also has ads. I'd pay for either ad-free Google Maps, or Apple Maps on Android.

This article is about a notification that appears on iOS devices letting you know when an app has been using your location information in the background. I haven't used Android in a while but I assume it doesn't have this. These data are often sold to advertisers, data aggregation companies, shared with police, etc.

So that's the issue, more than ads being directly embedded in the apps of the phone.

> I haven't used Android in a while but I assume it doesn't have this.

I've started getting these notifications on my Android device.

Each app that makes a location request in the background causes a notification that allows me to take away location access from the app, only allow location access when the app is in the foreground, or always allow location access.

This notification is slightly different: you still get a notification when an app asks for permission. But later on you get a notification telling you that the app has been using a given feature x times, and you have the choice of changing the permission again. For location, it also shows a map of each location gathered by the app.

The same is true on Android, at least for me on my Pixel 4[1]

1: https://www.androidpolice.com/wp-content/themes/ap2/ap_resiz...

Yeah, that's what I'm describing.

You get a notification when the application accesses your location from the background.

You're not using the app at the time it makes the request, and you get a system notification telling you about the location access.

I haven't seen a map on Android though. I like that.

Since upgrade to Android 10 i get for each app, that asks for location in the background the option to disable it and allow location access only, when i use the app.

"Google is terrible, also Google is our default search engine on safari" - Apple

Google pays very dearly for that, btw

Which is another way of saying Apple values money over users being protected from something terrible.

Then again, I don't think defaulting to an inferior product is an obvious upside for the average user. I reckon the average user is more interested in a more robust search function when they're actually trying to get things done.

I think Apple values the user perception that Google is the best search engine. Note how they used Bing for Siri and Spotlight search (and they've been largely, if not entirely, replacing that with Siri Knowledge instead).

Not only that, Google paid roughly $10/ user per year to Apple just to remain the default search engine on all Apple OS. That is roughly $10B per year into their Services revenue.

All while Apple actively disarming tracking and Googles's revenue.

> I'd pay a premium for that. Android has done a great job making me want an iOS device again, these last ten years.

You greatly overestimate people's will to pay extra. I know my own experiences are also biased, but nobody I know would pay for iPhone themselves. Either they use company iPhone, or buy themselves an Android phone.

Apple has completely outpriced themselves from the majority of the market. Doesn't matter if it's $500 or $1000, I'd say the usual cap is somewhere around $300 in Europe and much less elsewhere.

The thing that makes me chuckle gleefully when Apple does things like this is that I know that the people that make up Google as a company are massive fans of Apple products.


When an Android app wants my location, I get prompted to Deny, Allow while using the app, or Always Allow.

With iOS 13, Apple removed the "Always Allow" option from that prompt. If you really want to always allow location access, you'll have to go to the system settings and enable it. You'll also get the "App XYZ has used your location in the background 123 times in the last three days, do you want to continue allowing this?" prompt along with a map of where the app requested your location.

According to the article, that really works.

Of course they have a choice: charge money for the services they provide. Revolutionary concept, I know.

Charge for search? For maps? Gmail? How's that going to work when you get it for free from everyone else?

The entire reason Google's products are as big/ successful as they are is because they are free. If they started charging for Gmail, the rush to the exits would be instant. If Google started charging for Android OEMs would switch to AOSP, China, Amazon, and Microsoft would ensure a supply of free Android versions.

Apple is able to charge people for their services more-or-less up-front. Google has to wrangle fickle OEMs.

“Free” you keep using that word. I do not think that word means what you think it means.

Convenient is the more apropos word.

I can't get maps or gmail for free from somewhere else. Maps is far and away the best in class, and I've got close to two decades worth of lock-in on their mail platform. And we haven't even mentioned the elephant in the room which is search. I'd pay them a seriously nontrivial amount of money each year if they bundled those services into a single privacy-aware offering. Way more than they're making off me from the ads I block and ignore.

Not at all, they just bundle them.

I’m a Google One customer... I came for the drive, but I’m stuck because of the nearly 15 years of GMail and the pain it would take to clean up!

This is a false dichotomy. It's not free-for-all vs paid-for-all. Google charges for their services as well. Gsuite is "paid Gmail" among other things. GCP gives you access to extra APIs which are "paid google maps". They can move that balance where needed without causing a mass exodus.

You're comparing B2C with B2B offerings. The same concepts do not apply to the two categories.

What services are you thinking of? They charge for all the enterprise level stuff, and Google Cloud etc; but consumer facing every-day use services?

I can't see how charging for search would work, charging for Android, they already charge for handsets but it's easier for Apple because of a closed ecosystem, I doubt they could charge for Chrome, so I'm a bit confused.

They could charge for search gold edition with fewer ads and more sophisticated operators, or buy companies like LexisNexis or other subscription options.

Ads are an incredible cash cow and an amazing business, but there are all sorts of other ways to monetize that business.

I’m an iOS user but Apple will never be the dominant phone vendor. The average selling price of an Android phone is $248. The cheapest iPhone is $475. Apple doesn’t have the stomach to compete on price and the vast majority of consumers aren’t going to pay Apple prices.

If people cared about privacy, the majority of them wouldn’t be on Facebook. They know that FB tracks them and advertises based on the data they collect.

iPhone's user interface is way more visually appealing.

You can also get an iPhone 8 on ebay for $200. So you can get the best of both worlds of price & UI.

Perhaps in US, but in the majority of regions where low end Android phones are popular even used iPhones are way more expensive.

Google is an ad and data company, so they can't help but push ads and watch what you do.

But on the flip side Apple is addicted to building their ecosystem. They will happily cripple the functionality of their devices to force you to buy their MacBook, AirPods, HomePod, Apple Watch, Apple TV, etc.

I personally prefer companies who sell solid hardware and focus on their niche.

> Apple is addicted to building their ecosystem

Which, on the flip side, is fantastic if you buy into their ecosystem.

I'm an iOS user that moved from Android. I'll never go back to Android as my phone OS. With that said, Android has a lot to offer that makes it worthwhile. It just depends on what you're looking for. Thought the number of people that are privacy aware is growing it's still not what people care about most in an OS.

And Google can show a screen after each search encouraging people to contact Apple if they want it removed. Will you switch to Bing? They can do the same thing. Other websites can also bother iPhone users worse than ads do or make visitors pay for access on iOS but not on Android. Apple does not run the Internet.

iOS has roughly 50% market share in the US. Most rational companies are unwilling to alienate half of their users (and the more lucrative half at that).

Why "alienate"? Apple bothers me with their iCloud when I'm doing a bunch of unrelated things all the time but I'm not alienated. Google could show a sensible explanation (true or not) about how Apple's changes will cause their search quality to decline and could get users on their side.

If Google went nuclear as an answer to losing 99% of their revenue from iPhones/iPads/macbooks and blocked their users completely, I would personally switch to Android right away. Google's search results and maps are much more important to me than a polished UI and a high-end screen.

> I'd pay a premium for that.

You already are if you buy Apple products :)

Agree. I don't like both companies and wish there were other options in the mobile space. But Apple definitely seems like a less shitty choice of the two

There are other options. My next phone will either be a Librem 5 or a zerophone.

Librem 5 isn't ready for public use, is it not? checking out zerophone, haven't heard of it, thank you

It will ship in 6 months, about the time my contract is done, so would be perfect. The zerophone is amazing as well, since you can pretty much build it yourself!

There's probably more money to be made in Apple themselves becoming the middle man for location data, rather than charging a very small number of people who care a premium to prevent sale of said data. From an ethical standpoint, I see where you're coming from, but from a business acumen perspective, I can't see it being more profitable.

I disagree. Treating customers badly is not a good long term business strategy. You can get away with it when customers don't know what you're doing, and you can absolutely get away with it by trading reputation for money for a long time when you have major market penetration or pseudo-monopoly, but eventually the public sours on the relationship. This trend has been seen in major retail stores. (Sears comes to mind as a good example) Compare and contrast to costco which works relentlessly to get their customers better deals, even at their own expense. They've seen massive growth where a ton of other retailers that focused on driving margins as high as they could get them (where costco literally hard caps margins internally) have seen major losses and then proceeded to blame those losses on online retailers. You can only abuse your customer for as long as you have a monopoly.

For a closer analogy, look at how fit bit numbers dropped when google announced they were buying Fitbit. (https://www.cnbc.com/2019/11/17/people-getting-rid-of-fitbit...)

What other privacy-minded phone are people going to run to, if Apple sells out? Google? Apple could absolutely be playing the long con here. Much like Google did with Chrome, allowing uBlock as a browser extension for nearly a decade.

If Apple does struggle to grow profitability through services, or can't find it's next "iPhone", I would expect to see profits grow from some potentially unsavory options. They wouldn't be Apple's first option, for sure, but in a world where Apple's business plateaus, privacy is on the chopping block.

An interesting one, on a tangent, this morning on my work windows10 machine I had a Chrome notification telling me about the latest plurasight deal. First time this has happened for me, it is an interesting use of the notification system!

> I'd pay a premium for that.

Not everyone has the money to do that, and privacy should not become another privilege that is solely meant for people of means.

Google could offer an identical feature while selling location data (transmitted by the OS) to customers themselves.

Would a phone wide adblocker like blockada be more to your liking ?

> Make iOS an absolute delight to use in contrast.

I cannot select the middle of a word.

The audio jack is held in by friction.

I think you are generalizing your own perspective.

Facts: 87% Android and 13% iOS

Until I can get a browser adblocker on a non-rooted, non-unlocked iphone, it's not a switch worth making.

firefox mobile + ublock origin is the only way I find the mobile web tolerable.

Content blocker extensions have been a thing on iOS for half a decade. Prior to that I'd just use a browser like iCab with built-in support for exactly the same type of filtering lists.

So it's always been both possible and trivial.

Handblock on the App Store does a good job.

Not as good as UBlock Origin, but pretty good.

> A drop in advertiser spending is likely to occur from small or medium-sized advertisers, Kasamias believes, as they are clients "where cost efficiency is paramount and there is a physical footprint, as targeting the right user at the right time will become more difficult."

Frankly, what a load of horse shit.

The reason for the drop in spend isn't the lack of targeting potential. Ad companies talk about this, because it sounds less creepy than what's really going on. What marketing departments in companies want from location data, is the ability to attribute sales to campaigns. They carpet bomb everyone they can with ads, and then if someone coincidentally even brushes past a store on their commute, they claim that the customer visited a store.

It's absolute arcane crap. They have no incentive to make targeting better if tracking is pervasive, because they can wildly gesticulate at one datapoint that slimily suggests the customer was effected by the ad. Losing location tracking data reduces the effectiveness of attribution, for huge enterprises, who target everyone.

ed: I wrote a little blog about this in June - https://lockwood.dev/advertising/2019/06/07/adtech-sucks.htm...

Interesting idea.

I have noticed that after I buy something I start seeing ads for the exact item, which I have never seen before. These aren’t things you buy more than once.

I always thought it was pretty dumb if you are serving ads for something someone just bought... but maybe they do it because some small % of people will click on it and they can claim the ad was associated with the sale in some hand-wavy way. Or maybe people are just more likely to click on these post-sale ads, and that’s all that matters.

I think you're right.

This is a function of Marketing departments wanting to create large audiences. Large audiences mean more chance to attribute a sale, and also more impressive sounding campaigns.

The technical and time cost of implementing something that removes people who have made purchases from the audience (probably 0.001% of an audience) is much higher than simply adding someone who visited your website (lets say 5% of the audience) to the audience. If your product is reasonably ok, your largest group of customers is often your previous customers, so attributing the ads those previous customers see to their next purchase is logical for marketers.

Thanks for the blog post, for the thoughts yes, but also for teaching me the word “spruik”!

PS I hope you’ve found or are finding a new and rewarding area to work in.

Same here. I'm in a similar situation to yours when you published that post. Curious to see what did you do next.

Thanks for your kind words :)

I shifted my career into web dev, and got a bit more picky with the companies I applied to work for. I feel much better about my work now. You'll find something!!!

How do they not have incentive?

If ad tech company X is more effective than Y at generating sales, eventually the money will shift away from Y.

Ad Tech company X needs to only appear more effective than Y. Location data enables increased attribution, making X appear more effective. X may or may not have done anything that had a greater impact on the targets.

My favorite thing about these features is the number of apps that it’s reminded me to uninstall completely from my devices. The number of apps that I initially installed months ago that didn’t have any of this that suddenly developed tracking notifications is staggering. I never would have known either since the updates happen silently in the background.

Great features.


Yeah, I have a number of apps I installed for one-time operations (a number of obscure dev apps come to mind), and I find out that they are still hanging around, like my drunken Uncle Bob, hovering around the keg.

I love this feature.

I regularly go through and turn off location tracking on almost all of my apps (or at least turn them to 'while using'). But sometimes I'll have to turn them back to permanent for a specific reason (e.g. sharing my location with someone while I'm coordinating with them). This feature reminds me to turn it back off.

But I also potentially see the need for a feature which allows always-on access for a limited period of time.

where are you seeing the notifications ? I installed the update and just clicked "use location only while using app" for everything

They'll usually pop up unexpectedly and say something like "Data Leaking App has used your location while running in the background 3 times in the last 24 hours. Do you want to continue allowing this?" and it'll give me a prompt to disable location services for that app completely, allow while the app is in the background, while it's in focus, or allow always. Depending on what permissions the app actually needs, the prompt is slightly different each time.

It's a new feature due to the more fine-grained permissions that are allowed now on iOS. It prevents apps that you may have previously allowed location access to (when it was just binary) from adding all these new "features" to use your location in ways that weren't disclosed that way initially.

interesting - i have not seen that yet, but maybe i dont have apps doing that. i dont have uber on my phone but I have lyft, Im surprised I have not seen it from them.

I don't know if you'll get them at all for apps where you said "only while using". They're intended for apps that use your location in the background. The OS just prompts you at some point to make sure you want to keep giving the app access to your location while in the background.

They just magically start appearing after a while

And once they start they don't stop again, which is also kinda annoying. I wish there was some way to permanently allow it, and not be bugged by the alerts again. Something the app cannot set by itself, but i can set.

I have some apps, i.e. Unifi Protect, that requires access to background location to send activity alerts when nobody is home, and i frequently get alerts that this app has used my location in the background, and despite selecting "allow always" it will pop up again in a couple of weeks.

To further add insult to injury, i appear to have "trained" my wife so well that she defaults to selecting "deny" for apps she doesn't use, and "only when in use" to everything else, which then results in a flurry of motion alerts :)

I have a feeling that's a bug. I have an app that I want to have background location and was asked twice soon after upgrading to iOS 13, then iOS was silent for about a month, then started popping up a prompt for it 2 or 3 times a day for half a week. After restarting it stopped popping up again, so it seems likely that something was broken about saving whether it had prompted for that app.

You get the popups until you accidentally block the app. Since the probability for blocking accidentally is greater than zero, over time all such apps get blocked.

This might hurt for example Tile. I think their “network effect” is somewhat depending on this kind of background location tracking.

And it’s not just location data. I am amazed at how many apps want Bluetooth, too. Umm, there isn’t a single listed feature that indicates a need for BT, why are you asking? Oh, so you can use that as a tracking vector, too. Well, not only do you not get BT, you don’t get to live on my phone anymore, either.

As for the advertisers, boo-hoo. You raised a finger (or two, depending on locale) to “do not track”, you think there wasn’t a hammer that was going to fall after you were asked politely?

I'm pretty sure that the reason for this is dependencies.

People don't just write apps anymore. They write CocoaPods frameworks.

I was just looking at something that someone wrote that does basically the same thing as one of my open-source utilities.

The one I wrote is a 300-line file. It's so small that it isn't even worth writing a pod for it.

The more popular one has over a dozen source files, and also brings in two dependencies.

One of the reasons, I'm sure, is that they are an "all things to all men" approach. They do a lot.

Welcome to the Roaring Twenties...

Are you aware of any common libraries which aren’t ad packages but do ask for Bluetooth or Location Services by default? I’ve had a handful of apps which legitimately need to talk to devices but all of the inexplicable ones were clearly using ads and had privacy policies a mile long before I deleted them.

No. I tend to avoid dependencies. When I do use them, I'm very careful, and I don't use CocoaPods for release software (only for development utilities, like SwiftLint). I use Carthage (or even -ick- submodules) for the rare dependencies that make it into my shipping software.

I'm told that Bluetooth is used for location tracking. I suspect that advertisers also like to use it.

I write Bluetooth software. You need to jump through a couple of hoops to make it work. Not a big deal.

Good thought that I hadn’t considered, but should have. Because when Apple did their big crackdown on private APIs, one of my apps got flagged. Yup, framework I was using.

Good lesson to learn: know your dependencies. Before you pull in some third party library that you think is going to be an awesome time saver, dig in to it a little and figure out what it’s actually doing. Too many Kitchen Sink third party SDKs out there.

A lot of apps ask for Bluetooth because Google Chromecast wanted it. I think Google put out a Chromecast framework update to fix this, though I'm not positive.

You can pick a version of the SDK without "Guest mode" support that will not use Bluetooth.

I'm pretty sure before iOS 13 came out there was no option to remove bluetooth. So any apps that haven't updated to the newer SDK will still be requesting bluetooth access.

Yeah, something like that. The change was made in response to iOS 13.

> As for the advertisers, boo-hoo. You raised a finger (or two, depending on locale) to “do not track”, you think there wasn’t a hammer that was going to fall after you were asked politely?

I wish it was that easy, but the current changes will generate a push towards non-deterministic, data driven ways of targeting, i.e. replacing the "precise" inputs such as GPS, trackingID, etc... with a set of more fuzzy parameters: geo IP, UA, fingerprinting.

Some good things are happening, but there's so much more to do. I like the WebKit approach the most:

we don't care how you target users cross-site, what tech is involved, if you track cross-site, we will treat it as exposing a security vulnerability—we'll escalate the issue and potentially include measures to prevent your domain accessing the browser.

The approach above sounds more future-proof, imo

There's an excellent white paper and mitigation proposal from the 2017 PrivacyCon on cross-app tracking via Bluetooth LE, here's the link for any interested; https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/public_comments/2...

Would the situation be different if Apple's biggest rival wasn't basically an advertising and data mining company?

I wouldn't put it below Apple to profit from advertising control if Google didn't have an iron grip on it.

And if a frog had wings it wouldn’t bump its ass when it hops. But in our world of ass-bumping frogs, that is our current situation. Beyond that, we’re guessing at motives from Column A, and hypotheticals from Column B.

Heh! :D I never heard frog/wings phrase before, made me laugh.

This frog probably did though, saw bit on tv last week, and thanks to the old data miner (google searched it).


I prematurely agree, it's not real wings, but bumps its ass a lot less compared to other frogs.

Isn't that good? Now their goals naturally align with ours. That means these ideals will outlast CEOs (at least until one of the CEOs decides Google doesn't matter any more...)

Considering Apple is a hardware company first, probably they would do the same thing. They wouldn’t rely on ads even if Google didn’t exist, therefore they wouldn't have to worry about the poor ad companies losing revenue.

On the other hand Apple has forced apps to use location data for purposes it should not be used for. Termius, for example, is my favorite iOS SSH app. But according to them, they can’t keep an SSH session running in the background unless they’re constantly tracking your location data. And somehow Apple approved this usage of location data.

I don’t want to give Termius my location. I don’t want them tracking me everywhere I go. But apparently that’s the only way they can keep my SSH session alive when I need to switch to Safari for a few minutes?

Absent memory pressure, apps can stay open for up to 10 minutes in the background.

The correct solution here is for the app to request background processing and to schedule a local notification in 9 minutes saying that the app is about to run out of background time and pause (and then clean up the notification if the user returns to the app before it fires). This means you're not abusing anything, and it lets the user return before the connection is killed in order to keep it alive.

This also means if the user never returns, the app will naturally shut down the connection after 10 minutes instead of keeping it open indefinitely.

Are you sure about that? Especially in iOS 13, killing apps seems to have gotten a bit more agressive.

Yeah on iOS 13 I get Safari tabs reloading if I toggle between them. Just switching to one tab and back to the other will sometimes completely reload the page.

iPadOS was such a major leap forward for the iPad and there's not many features left I need to use it as a laptop replacement... but the aggressive app and tab killing ruins everything. I've never said this about iOS devices before, but it's time to start putting more RAM in these machines.

Under normal usage, iOS will kill apps a lot earlier than 10 minutes. In the general case it's really not possible to do this, and I would argue that shipping with a flaky feature is probably worse than not shipping with it at all.

I haven't checked in a while but in the past it was fairly reliably 10 minutes.

In any case, there's a property `UIApplication.backgroundTimeRemaining` that tells you how long you have, so you can use that to calculate the appropriate notification time.

I thought it was 3 minutes? Or is it 3 guaranteed, 10 maximum?

And yes, the app in question of course does exactly that notification dance (I've used it since long before it got its current name). GP is talking about a new feature to keep sessions open in bg for a loong time. I've disabled it, not for fear of tracking but because it seems like a silly way to forget connections open and drain the battery for no reason.

App has indeed also always supported mosh... me I just attach to tmux. But I agree with whoever wrote it's better to have such a bg hack feature than not, for those who find it useful.

One of the biggest complaints people have with ios13 right now is RAM management. It quickly kills off apps.

Or instead of using a hack that intermittently fails, you could use a platform that lets the app function correctly. The app can pester the user about if they want to keep the connection open only if the user specifically wants that.

Termius works perfectly on Android without requesting my location.

Hint: if Apple allowed apps to run indefinitely in the background, it would be less than a month before almost every app "needs to run in the background", for user-unfriendly reasons. And battery life would drop to a couple of hours.

This is why I'm an Apple user. Hate regarding Apple's policies like "use a platform that lets the app function correctly" (ie. drain battery running in background just to do more tracking, or because every developer assumes THEIR app is so special that it must never be unloaded from memory, in order to open instantly when being swapped back to... weeks after user's last interaction). With hilarious frequency, the complaints people have about Apple are precisely the reasons I prefer their products.

> Hint: if Apple allowed apps to run indefinitely in the background, it would be less than a month before almost every app "needs to run in the background", for user-unfriendly reasons. And battery life would drop to a couple of hours.

This doesn't happen on Android. The reason it doesn't is that the app has to display a persistent notification if it wants to run with high priority in the background. This is why I'm an Android user. It lets the user do what they need to do and prevents apps from being abusive.

Every excuse for Apple's platforms failings that I have seen so far has a better solution on Android that the Apple apologist has not heard of.

Main problem facing any app that needs to run in the background is that Apple only allows it for certain use cases - VoIP, audio/airplay, location and BLE being the main ones. That's why since iOS 13 users have been seeing alerts that apps with no reason to need Bluetooth are requesting it.

So I deny most apps use of this, as it's clearly just a ploy to keep their app running when it shouldn't be. Something like the Termius app you cite has a legitimate reason to run in the background though and has to ask for one of those permissions.

It's a weird grey area IMO. I'm sure if you asked the Termius developers they may tell you that they don't even use the location data and that it's just a mechanism to keep the app running. However, the fact that we as users don't know this for sure is a problem that Apple could fix by adding a specific background permission alert.

the real fix here is to move off ssh onto a mosh server, as it's specifically designed to fix this use-case without requiring a persistent connection


Mosh has a number of issues, though. IIRC it doesn't do scrollback, and being "non-standard" it can be problematic to set up.

Mosh has a lot of issues. Most notably it lacks flow control [1] and does not handle packet loss or truncation [2].

Very sad, because the idea behind Mosh is great.

1: https://github.com/mobile-shell/mosh/issues/957

2: https://github.com/mobile-shell/mosh/issues/950

been using mosh with various shitty networks around europe and it always felt better than plain ssh.

1. seems a egde case, never hit me while beeing a customer there. (funny way telefonica does throttling)

2. seems a edge case caused by the users vpn.

The problem as I understand it isn’t the ssh connection being dropped but the app being closed and needing to reload. Because iOS devices don’t have enough RAM to keep an app in the background while also running Safari.

the application being closed and needing to reload at some future point effectively drops the connection from the client side

mosh solves this use-case because there is no need for the client to remain connected to persist. It's like a tmux/screen terminal running in detached mode. When the app loads back up, it picks up the mosh session again.

> Mosh maintains the terminal session (not "connection" in the TCP-sense because Mosh uses UDP) even when a user loses their Internet connection or puts their client to "sleep." In comparison, SSH can lose its connection in such cases because TCP times out.[5]

Safari, or any other app that needs the memory.

Humorous, but the curse of Android devices is that every single app demands a perpetual background service doing close to nothing. Of course we see the same thing on Windows and macOS where everyone thinks they need their own background daemons for the most absurdly simple task.

I definitely prefer the iOS model.

Of all the things to be controversial, this has to be the most surprising: Who knew that HN was so much in love with egregious and unnecessary background daemons.

99.9999% of the time the most that is necessary is an occasional scheduled task. No, your picture of cats app doesn't need to run a busy loop pinging a server. Learn how to use the core messaging infrastructure of the platforms you target.

No, Chrome doesn't need to run a perpetual service just to check for updates.

These are not controversial claims.

I don’t see why it can’t be requested like any other permission. Otherwise apps just abuse location and audio to make it work anyway. It’s not like apps AREN’T working in the background.

There are extraordinarily few cases where apps on iOS need to run in the background, beyond what can be accomplished via a periodic scheduled task or the system eventing infrastructure. And the notion paraded here that every app is secretly doing it by pretending that it's playing audio is nonsense that has little correlation with reality.

Android very recently -- at API level 26 -- added restrictions on background tasks for that platform (and it's much more involved than if you display a notification or not). Before that every app developer just spun up a background service for everything, and anyone who has done an iota of development on Android devices saw the tragedy of the commons that the platform became. So kudos to Google for cleaning it up a bit. Of course Samsung, Google and others just declare themselves immune from those restrictions and it's just a smaller problem, not a solved problem.

That's indeed how it works on Android. If you want to have a high priority background task that isn't among the first to get killed when another app needs more memory, you have to tell the OS to show a notification that is displayed until the user shuts down the service.

Hey, that's cool.

I was not aware of Mosh.

iOS really needs a channel for legitimate, real background apps. A lot of its battery life and security advantages over Android come from the fact that it doesn't allow a wild-west of background processes, but there are certain cases where you really do just need that.

Apple is good at taking use-cases and creating cohesive stories around the right way to serve them; this one has been long-coming.

Agreed. Camera upload to DropBox is one situation I've run into. Currently it seems like it's using some janky set up where each time I change location it triggers an event to look for new photos to upload but this results in Apple notifying me of DropBox looking up my location X amount of times in the last few days.

Yeah, I think I declined that option so instead every time I open the Dropbox app, I get a notification 5 minutes later saying uploads were paused. It's exhausting.

Apple does have a small number of very specific use cases carved out where they allow apps to run in the background, like VOIP apps and audio players. But “I just want to run in the background to do stuff” has never been a legitimate use case in their view.

I honestly don’t know how you manage this with a normal user/consumer without a flood of “my battery life is gone” complaints.

Even with opt-In messaging how many people just click “ok” thinking the app needs it.

They could do it the same way they did it with background location (what this whole article is about) - keep pestering the user "this app has used 15% of your battery in the background, disable background processing for it?". Only the most die-hard IRC users will keep allowing it.

Apple's effective policy is that any long-running service should be mediated via a remote server. This affects not just SSH but every other protocol that relies on long-lived TCP connections such as IRC and XMPP. Not only can you no longer maintain the connection - you also need an out-of-band way to provide notifications via APNS. Together these requirements have hugely damaged traditional or federated protocols. Nowadays XMPP has extensions to handle this situation but the damage is done.

Meanwhile Matrix gets by because they have a company with actual money subsidising the client app (Riot) and providing notifications for every user, no matter which homeserver they happen to be using. Without that benevolence provided for iOS, Matrix could well be another non-starter outside FOSS circles.

> Meanwhile Matrix gets by because they have a company with actual money subsidising the client app (Riot) and providing notifications for every user, no matter which homeserver they happen to be using. Without that benevolence provided for iOS, Matrix could well be another non-starter outside FOSS circles.

So, I'm reading this that regardless of using a separate 'homeserver', Matrix receives all traffic/notifications?

Anyone know of a good open source alternative to the Termius input on iOS?

I loved Termius but didnt realize that keys were uploaded to their servers until I opened it on my laptop and saw it download all my keys.

Spent the day rotating all my keys.

I’m a huge fan of Blink Shell. App Store version is pricey but worth every cent. Or you can build from source.

You sure it's not just putting them on iCloud Keychain?

I use a Thinkpad :(

Yea, it's just one of those things that I rather inspect, I didn't need syncing, I just needed a decent terminal app on iOS.

In all likelihood, Termius isn’t collecting your location at all and it’s never leaving the app. Test it, but I’d be willing to bet that their servers never see your geolocation.

We also had to do this to get enough background time. I can honestly say we don't track you. customers also get mad when the app intermittent stops doing its job.

I just hope the app review team doesn't throw us out again.

I just don’t understand why Apple doesn’t have a “allow to run in background” permission. Instead developers have to resort to Bluetooth or silent audio or location tracking which further erodes user trust and allows for developers to say “I swear we don’t track you” while actually tracking you.

Because developers would abuse it. Look at what Huawei does to force kill apps just to “fix” this

Prompt, another iOS SSH app, does the same thing. They even named the feature "connection keeper."

This is also how google photos works to upload photos in the background.

Apple needs to fix this.

Termius is lying. They could just as easily played silent audio in the background to keep the app from being suspended. Although in my opinion both practices should cause them to be rejected from the AppStore since they’re clearly misusing the APIs. Must be an oversight from the review team at Apple.

That option would mean the user couldn't listen to other audio in the background.

Apple’s reviewers try to distinguish between apps that legitimately need to play audio in the background and apps whose use cases have nothing to do with audio (or location) and are likely using the APIs to work around the rules.

>And somehow Apple approved this usage of location data.

On one hand I agree with you, that's crazy that your SSH program put that limit on there for clearly tracking purposes. But I guess I sort of disagree this is Apple's problem to solve. It's yours.

Apple made the changes to inform and educate you the customer that an app that is abusing your trust.

The solution is not to force Apple to police developers but for you to stop using Terminus. Call it a free market solution if you like.

The difference with real and ideal is that Terminus could absolutely find a "legitimate" use for location and it would scoot right by Apple review anyhow. So let them be upfront they're bad people being bad.

(Before it comes... I KNOW... Apple walled garden and how they do this a lot anyhow! But, as someone who has walled garden issues with Apple, we should encourage information and education over big brother protecting us. It might not be consistent for them, but I think it's the right move here)

The reason I called out Apple is because they normally take a strong stance on misuse of permissions. I’ve had my own apps rejected for the justification “I need location permissions so I know where you are” in a mapping app where the use case is obvious.

If Apple is playing hands on, they deserve just as much blame.

I don't disagree. They need to do have a consistent approach. Selective enforcement is not likely the thing here, it seems like sibling that this just got missed.

So, report to Apple, file a review, stop using it.

If Apple comes to the rescue and characteristically fixes it, great, if they don't - they've already made great steps in allowing you to make informed decisions.

Why stop using the app, let one report it, and not just turn the unwanted feature off?

And I think the app is covered since it's saying "enabling location data means you can plot on a map where you've connected to a host" or something like that in settings - good enough a bs feature for Apple to let it slide, evidently.

> Why stop using the app

Because they have clearly demonstrated they do not deserve your trust or support.

>The solution is not to force Apple to police developers but for you to stop using Terminus.

The actual scalable solution is for Congress or states to pass GDPR-style privacy legislation (or CCPA if your politicians are captured by tech industry interests).

Maybe you're right and the solution is just add more laws.

No tech can fix the lack of laws regarding rights and privacy of citizens. At best, it just slows down the encroaching.

It's always laws.

The scalable solution is to stop using Apple products and use platforms that let you do what you want without resorting to silly hacks that might hide actual privacy violations.

The alert is annoying although for apps you want to have always on location tracking although, like some life logging apps. (Arc, etc)

It's like OS doesn't want to accept there are apps you want always on location tracking on and for it to stop annoying you about it.

This might be a necessary evil. If you could turn it off (even in a convoluted way), people would do it - which is what led to the issue of such a large proportion of Americans having their location data streamed 24/7 in the first place.

Unlike Windows 10 updates not giving people a choice in the matter, this only helps you, so I really don't see the problem here.

No, it does not "only help me". My attention is finite, and spurious warnings waste it. Constant unwanted nagging is paternalistic and disrespectful of the user's time.

I have several apps with always-on location permissions and I must have seen maybe half a dozen of these alerts since I installed iOS 13 back in the fall. It's nowhere near "constant unwanted nagging".

Yeah, I'm a little annoyed that there isn't an option for "no really, always allow". I understand that there's good privacy reasons to keep asking -- but I'm quite aware that a weather app will need access to my location, and I'm okay with that.

There is an Always option. It just doesn’t show on the pop up. But if you go to settings -> privacy -> location services you see a list of apps, and if the app registers for always, it will have that option

But iOS still occasionally double-checks. Not frequently, but if you have enough apps that you allow to always track you, the notifications might add up enough to be annoying.

Except, most weather apps including the Weather Channel App sell your location data to hedge funds.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/12/10/business/loca...

> The Weather Channel app, owned by an IBM subsidiary, told users that sharing their locations would let them get personalized local weather reports. IBM said the subsidiary, the Weather Company, discussed other uses in its privacy policy and in a separate “privacy settings” section of the app. Information on advertising was included there, but a part of the app called “location settings” made no mention of it.

> The app did not explicitly disclose that the company had also analyzed the data for hedge funds — a pilot program that was promoted on the company’s website. An IBM spokesman said the pilot had ended. (IBM updated the app’s privacy policy on Dec. 5, after queries from The Times, to say that it might share aggregated location data for commercial purposes such as analyzing foot traffic.)

You can choose the weather location manually. I have a list of cities and default to the one I live in. There’s absolutely no reason for the weather app to know my location down to the square metre.

When you choose a weather location manually, you actually get a less fine-grained report than the one you get from a GPS-resolved location. Basically, you get weather for "the closest weather station to the geographic centre of the named city" rather than "the closest weather station to you."

This can be a big deal if your city has a large altitude range, such that going a few miles east means the difference between clouds vs. fog, or rain vs. snow; or if your city is coastal, such that going a few miles inland can mean rain vs. sun, and can make a dozen degrees' difference in temperature. (And, in some cities, you have both problems. Yay Vancouver!)

Coquitlam has a report. And the weather predictions are quantized to a certain cell size. And in coquitlam, why bother. It’s all just rain :P

Why not use a ZIP/postal code?

My ZIP code has a 4,000ft altitude change. Weather at the top is very different from the bottom.

In the case where you never go anywhere, how is that different from giving them your precise location? They very likely know enough other things about you to deanonymize a postal code into your actual address.

In the case where you do go places, the difference is that you get a weather report for where you are, rather than where you live. When I'm at my girlfriend's house, and I check the weather report, I want to know what the weather's going to be like tomorrow at my girlfriend's house, not at my house. And when I'm at the office and considering where to go for lunch, I want to know whether it's going to be raining at noon in the area of town around my office.

There’s two apps in germany that broadcast warnings of either dangerous weather conditions or other incidents (major fire or similar). I can configure both with a fixed location, but this is really a case where I want the app to geolocate me and warn me about dangers around where I am currently.

We get dangerous ones like tornado sent as part of Emergency broadcast. Snowfall warnings and thunderstorms warning are sent without geolocation as well.

Wonder if we’ll see a shift to legit location aware apps that then leak tracking data

Are a weather app’s ads more valuable now because it gets more users to track location

That's how it works in Android. Per app, you can set to Always allow location, Always deny location, or Allow only when app is in use.

I have to admit this annoyed me as well, they should change it to the notifications that just exist on your lock screen or as a banner.

It's started to frustrate me when I've just unlocked my phone to call or reply to someone and I get hit with a forced notification I must respond to about location tracking for an application that I absolutely do want location tracking set for.

In my experience, the OS prompts you less and less frequently if you keep approving it. I have one app I give background access for and at this point I'm getting maybe one prompt per month.

They just need a "don't ask me again about this app" option. I'm surprised they don't have that already.

This can be exploited by Shitbook and the likes. Messenger for example displays a fake notifications prompt with an arrow pointing to the "Allow" button and the only way to proceed is to tap the allow button, at which point they'll call the real OS-provided notifications prompt (which looks just like the fake one) and hope you also click allow on that one (of course the real one can be denied but unless you're tech-savvy you wouldn't even notice/understand what just happened or how a company could be so nasty to be pulling tricks like this).

Is there anything like Arc for android?

Over the years I've considered switching to Android a few times but Apple's really locking in as my preferred device from their privacy work.

Not sure this moves the needle with consumers but it does for me.

The article is from Apple Insider, so I guess it's no surprise they don't mention it, but Android 10 has the same functionality, including reminders and per-app 3-way location tracking settings (always on, on with app open, off).

Granted it's been quite some time, but one of the reasons I switched to iOS from Android was Facebook kept "accidentally" exploiting bugs in Android and Google never did anything about it. At the time Facebook wasn't even one of the apps you could delete from your phone. Hopefully Android is better now.

> one of the reasons I switched to iOS from Android was Facebook kept "accidentally" exploiting bugs in Android and Google never did anything about it. At the time Facebook wasn't even one of the apps you could delete from your phone. Hopefully Android is better now

Um? What?

None of my Android phones, going back a great many years, had Facebook. So sure, I couldn't delete it - because it wasn't there.

My guess is you buy expensive/vanilla-OS Android phones. Lots of other Android phones have Facebook apps that can't be deleted.

The cheapest western Android phones like by Motorola, Nokia or Xiaomi (the around 150€ models) don't have this and you can uninstall everything that IS on there.

Actually the expansive ones like Samsung are the really bloated ones.

Apple’s restrictive iOS is what’s pushed me to use Android. Sure, out-of-the-box, iOS is better for privacy. But with the right adjustments, power users can make Android much better for privacy than iOS.

I get the same location-data popup on Android.

If you're running Android, I suggest you install one of the open source "firewall"s available on FDroid.

Even if you don't plan on using it, make yourself aware of the sheer number of requests being sent _constantly_ from not only your applications, but by Android system services themselves.

I'm not saying these requests are always related to ad tracking, but you can't argue there's a lot of information constantly being sent back an forth.

Pro-tip: Your battery life will possibly double running a software firewall on Android...

Any app you've got in mind? The only one on https://search.f-droid.org/?q=firewall doesn't seem to be of interest for that purpose.

Next step is to download Lockdown, open source and on device firewall. It also offers a VPN with an in-app purchase (kinda confusing when you are setting it up), but for free you get the firewall only. Easy to enable and block known ad-trackers (including FB sdk and Google Ads). Highly recommend. It's also made by ex Apple engineers, in case that helps for building trustworthiness.



> It's also made by ex Apple engineers, in case that helps for building trustworthiness.

It really shouldn't. Plenty of Apple engineers leave the company to work on shady things.

This app is not a firewall, it's a 'DNS sinkhole'.

Any app can easily circumvent this "firewall" by simply falling back to hard coded public ips of their servers if the domain lookup doesn't work.

I'm not saying it's a bad app, but it's misleading to call their app a "firewall".

True, firewall is for inbound connection. Thanks.

firewalls are for both inbound and outbound connections. The GP's point is this isn't blocking network connections because you can still access the end point via IP.

What this is doing is redirecting known domain names to a sink hole. Much like Pihole does.

So if I care about privacy, why in the heck would I trust yet another party with access to all of my internet communication?

It has one of the best privacy policies I’ve ever read.

“ Everything Lockdown Firewall does stays on your phone, so no data is transmitted to any of our servers. This can be confirmed by checking the source code, which is 100% open and public for anyone to examine. Lockdown Firewall doesn't use any type of third party analytics, trackers, or APIs, so there's no risk of your data leaking to third parties. This means there's no Google Analytics, no Facebook Pixel, no Mixpanel, Fabric, Mailchimp, etc — nada.

Information We Collect

Lockdown Firewall collects nothing. It all stays on your device.”

It runs on device and it's fairly easy to analyze the traffic, you are not giving a third party all your access. You could proxy all the traffic through a Mac running LittleSnitch, read their code, inspect the VPN profile it installs on the device, etc. It will only have access to your internet traffic if you opt-in in the actual VPN tunnel service they sell, which is optional.

Just downloaded it, too. It does ferret out those ads in the NYT app that I can’t seem to get Pi-Hole to filter out. Seems it will save me setting up a VPN to the home network to use Pi-Hole when on the road, too. So far, it’s two thumbs up. I’ll give it a few days, but I’ll throw some money their way in-app purchase even I never use their VPN (though I’ll certainly give it a whirl).

If you like Pi-hole, consider nextdns.io and their iOS app, or their plenty other configs/apps as well.

Using the web control panel, pick from high level categories to block, or drill down and select from among the most common of dozens and dozens of block lists. Make one or more configs, so different family members or devices can be blocked differently.

With Lightweight apps for Android, iOS, Windows, macOS and Chrome OS offering privacy and security benefits of DNS-over-HTTPS. Always-on on all networks automatically to automatically bypass network filtering and government censorship.

Their DNS hosts leverage latency-based routing to automatically use the DNS server with the lowest latency, or use a subset outside "Five eyes" locations.


Thanks for the heads-up, definitely interesting enough to take a look.

Maybe I'm just skeptical and a cynic, but...

> VPN with an in-app purchase

Lets pay for a product, and they have the ability to sell that data.

I get, acting like a pi-hole and what-not but, a VPN for that task seems overkill.

iOS requires a VPN profile (even a local VPN) for ruled-based adblocking. This is what AdGuard Pro [0] does for adblocking.

This does not mean that your data goes through a VPN server.

[0] https://adguard.com/en/adguard-ios-pro/overview.html

The VPN is optional purchase. I mentioned it since the setup is a bit misleading. The DNS blocking is free and on-device and available to run after skipping the VPN part. Pi-hole is harder to get right with a mobile device on the go unless you are hosting on your server. This is basically an app with a subset of features of pi-hole. iOS is very restrictive and to enable the on-device firewall you do need to use the VPN functionality but you can check the VPN profile it installs that references

VPN for that task seems overkill

If you can figure out another way to pull it off, I’d wager you could make a fair bit of cash. Or at least get a job offer at a lot of places you might like to work.

Vpn is the ux reason. It is the only way to have a way to inspect network traffic on android without rooting. And likely on ios.

Disclaimer: never used lockdown, not endorsing the product.

> a VPN for that task seems overkill

I think that’s the only way to perform certain tasks on iOS.

Just downloaded this to see. It has a log which within a minute blocked 6 ad networks. Great.

Here’s the thing: before all this privacy invading tracking nonsense advertising was a perfectly healthy business. Yes, it’s harder to know if your campaign worked but that didn’t stop people from advertising. I have zero sympathy for the ad industry complaining because of this.

On the other hand recently I restored my iPhone as new. The default settings may give users prompts to disable tracking but Siri is now a big tracker itself. Siri now learns from apps how you use them by default. While this may not be advertising and data may be on your device or with a trusted company like Apple, the idea of privacy should be that by default everything is opt in only. Who’s to say Apple is tailoring your iPhone behaviour ‘to your needs’ when in reality they are just trying to make you invest more into their ecosystem by learning from you ? That might sound like that’s helpful and might make the experience better but the main idea of tracking is still the same.

> ...forcing advertisers to use inefficient data sources to pinpoint users.

They should have said, "to pinpoint users against their will". If the user wanted to be pinpointed, they would allow location tracking in that app.

The thing is... we still do adaptations of Shakespeare, because human behavior hasn't changed all that profoundly in 600 years.

By the time we actually have privacy again, there will be enough information out there to mine about how people reacted five, ten years ago for the old data to continue to retain value. It'll just be repackaged and re-interpreted over and over again.

The coffee shop may no longer know that you also like kayaks, or bulldogs, but they might not need information like that to peg your preferences based on what stereotypes you fit with the information they do have.

One thing I wish iOS supported is allowing apps to access approximate location data. There's a lot of apps that bring value based on location, but I don't want to give them precise GPS data.

This feature sounds great on paper, but what's always bugged me is that this only applies to third-party apps. Apple's own location tracking apps (Maps, Find My) aren't subjected to never-ending scary pop-up messages like their competitors.

That's swell. It would also be great if there was a single button on the Control Center that would allow me to toggle global location on/off instead of how it is which is multiple clicks, scroll and confirmation.

Although it doesn't stop DNS over HTTPS, I use a DNS sinkhole on my home network and then I use wireguard to VPN into home when I'm not connected to my home WiFi.

The Wireguard iOS app allows you to automatically connect to your configured interfaces based on whether you're using cellular data, connected to specific SSIDs, or disconnected from specific SSIDs.

The only downside I have found to this approach so far is that it can break captive portals on public WiFi networks, which I will just disconnect from if I have a reasonable 4G signal.

That's great. Android also has this feature for couple of months now.

What's great it shows list of apps that use location in background so that you can disable all permissions in go.

Apple is clearly taking a position that some of the other big players can’t, and all indications are that they will squeeze this play very hard.

The likes of Google have rough waters ahead. Advertising on the internet is obviously here to say but the future of targeted ads based on all this tracking data is clearly looking very shaky.

Google and other companies have likely not done enough to diversify their business models to weather the coming storm without a lot of hurt.

Great step in the right direction.


- 80% of iOS 13 users disabled background location tracking - vendors still report having collected more location-based data than a year before, but - the quality of data has decreased (vendors are ofsetting GPS data with geo ip lookups)

I didn't find the UX and the initial permission/notification spam that annoying, as I've learned more about what's happening on my phone. Wondering if this is a shared sentiment or just my bias.

My Android phone started telling me about background location requests about 2 weeks ago as well with the option to block. It is a great feature.

> The quality of that data is still a problem, as ad buyers notice it is of a lower quality than data that was previously available

Not a problem at all.

To be fair I get a very similar notification when an app requests location data in the background in Android 10 too.

What sort of privacy protections does purism offer when you use librem apps? Anyone experiment with this so far?

Replace each occurrence of “location data” with, say, “cocain”.

> Despite the reduced amount of cocain available, the amount that is still available to use is more valuable, while the market for cocain continues to thrive.

I mean it’s disturbing.

Hey, good one, mate. Now let's try the First Amendment. I'm going to try replacing "speech" with "cocaine".

> Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of cocaine, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Good god. This is immeasurably disturbing. Forsooth, we must ban the freedom of speech!

Are you somehow trying to equate ad companies hoovering up our location data with the first amendment?

I was simply trying to convey how addicted they are to that data.

You can make everyone look addicted to something by replacing something with cocaine. It's because all the bad parts come from the fact that you're replacing something with cocaine

Excellent work, Apple! Keep it up!

Apple already collects all the data of their users heavily and moves like these are simply meant to annoy their competitors (mostly Google) and keep the data to themselves while looking like a good kid in the valley.

The number of gullible people aka Apple fanboys is staggering here who actually think Apple is trying to _save_ their privacy from advertisers after reading this highly biased article. Hah.

What makes you so sure about that?

I just read the first article, but I find the problem quite hard, actually.

The Atlantic article seems to say that Apple can do more, because: Safari defaults to Google (Tim Cook claims because it's the best search engine), plus they allow Google and Facebook apps, especially Google Maps. You'd rather they didn't?

The second article, from Krebs on Security, says that the location is collected by Apple for "a new short-range technology that lets iPhone 11 users share files locally with other nearby phones that support this feature, and that a future version of its mobile operating system will allow users to disable it".

I think it's far more nuanced than you state. However, I do agree with you that Safari should not default to Google.

Any sources for this?

The blog is one of biggest apple fanboy bullshits out there. And given the bias against google in HN / reddit, it is quite simple why apple is heralded as preserver of privacy.

Hell, one can disable most of google stuff and install f-droid, or even go lineageOS route. that's much, much more private than buying an overpriced, locked-in phone.

If Google is evil because it tracks some (easily hide-able) data that only few zealots care, then apple is much more evil, because they patent trivial things (such as optional chaining in swift, or rounded corners of phones) and do misleading marketing.

As someone who works in this space I see this from an alternative angle. Yes we use data like this in order to advertise to you, No Apple is no better than Google at how they approach this - they are just walling you further into their walled garden.

Google uses your location information to track your locations in order to provide better (more relevant) advertisements through their own ad platform.

Apple does exactly the same but because it doesn't have it's own ad platform this gets sent to their "Approved Partners" who do it on their behalf.

Stopping 3rd parties from being able to use this data simply tightens the circle, the data is anonymous (for the most part) and while there are companies that exist out there to tie this data to an actual person most companies like ours have no need to do so.

Likewise what you will start seeing off the back of this is a decrease in advert quality.

Like anyone - I despise adverts, but if I HAVE to see them I at least want them to be relevant products that I am interested in. Soon the only people who will be able to provide those insights will be Apple Partners or Google.

Why do I "have" to see ads? When I watch live theater, do the performers segue into a paid endorsement? The online ad industry as it currently exists, is too intrusive and the data it collects about us, are too much and permanent. It is past time for a change.

Because unfortunately other ways of widespread monetising the internet haven't gained traction. I like what Brave browser is doing and I think in the future this could be a really nice way of opting out of adverts via a "paid" internet route.

> Apple does exactly the same but because it doesn't have it's own ad platform this gets sent to their "Approved Partners" who do it on their behalf.

Apple sends my location information to third parties? Citation needed.

Specifically: (highlights via are mine)

To provide location-based services on Apple products, Apple and our partners and licensees[1], such as maps data providers, may collect, use, and share[2] precise location data, including the real-time geographic location of your Apple computer or device. Where available, location-based services may use GPS, Bluetooth, and your IP Address, along with crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot and cell tower locations, and other technologies to determine your devices’ approximate location. Unless you provide consent, this location data is collected anonymously in a form that does not personally identify you and is used by Apple and our partners and licensees to provide and improve location-based products and services[3]. For example, your device may share its geographic location with application providers when you opt in to their location services.

Some location-based services offered by Apple, such as the “Find My” feature, require your personal information for the feature to work.

[1] is basically discussing how Apple and its partners (advertising partners, business alignment partners etc) and importantly licensees (e.g. people they licence this data to for things like advertising) can use your data

[2] Collect, Use and Share - basically carte blanche

[3] Location based products and services - advertising is included in this - again via licensees!

I just looked. They do, but they share it anonymously unless you consent otherwise.


See "Location-Based Services" near the bottom.

I'm assuming this is for Maps/address resolution data and such, and not real time location information that can be used to identify a single user.

No one identifies a "User" (in a personal sense), everything goes via the IDFA or AAID, this is a unique identifier that represents your device. Real time location is used - it specifies it there, I am really not sure why people think Apple is more altruistic with this data than Google.

>Like anyone - I despise adverts, but if I HAVE to see them I at least want them to be relevant products that I am interested in.

I don't think it's fair to say all people despise ads. I've seen oddballs in the industry critique ads in the same way an arts major might critique contemporary art.

If you despise ads in general what motivates you to work in the industry?

I don't work in the advertising industry - I work in the data industry that just happens to provide most of it towards advertising. We have done some other "good" stuff as well surrounding footfall data for various purposes, but the primary income for most in this industry is consumer intelligence!

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