Apple made headlines with the launch of its iOS 14.5 earlier this year, largely due to the App Tracking Transparency feature it carried. Touted to be a messiah of user privacy, the feature enabled iOS users to switch off data collection by third-party apps from their smartphone use.
The feature was frowned at by the makers of several third-party apps, with Facebook being the most vocal among them. The restricted data collection, Facebook argued, will hamper targeted advertising and hence the revenue sources of several small businesses.
Still, iOS users loved this new control over their data. This was clear when it was recorded that only 4 per cent of iPhone users allowed apps like Facebook to monitor user behaviour across their phones post the rollout of the iOS 14.5.
This love for data privacy is understandable and a necessity at many levels these days. Though the notion that Facebook is not able to record any data once the App Tracking Transparency is set as needed might be wrong.
The fact is that Facebook is still able to record some data from its users, mostly through their activities. This is the type of data collection that App Tracking Transparency on iOS 14.5 cannot address.
The good news is that there are steps to control even this seemingly invisible flow of information.
For instance, photos uploaded to Facebook might have geotags in them, which can enable the social media giant, or practically anyone for that matter, to note your location very easily.
Similarly, suppose you are tagged by one of your Facebook contacts in an image with a location tag. In that case, the service automatically registers it as your location at the particular timestamp, as highlighted in a report by HotHardware.
This data exchange is also enabled by the information exchange between Facebook and its clients. In such scenarios, registrations on a particular business’ ledgers can ultimately mean handing your data to Facebook.
Some countermeasures are available for this type of user tracking. Geolocation, for instance, can easily be turned off on both iOS and Android. Users can also prevent anyone from tagging them in images without their approval.
A complete stop to data exchange with Facebook, however, when using the service is practically impossible. If a VPN is not used, the social media platform will at the least collect a device’s IP address that can again be used for the user’s approximate location.