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Targeted ads chasing you on your iPhone? How to limit them



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Apple has built its reputation for helping you protect your privacy, and that includes its own advertising network.

Óscar Gutiérrez / CNET

Earlier this week, Facebook warned users and its business partners changed in Apple’s next version of iOS will affect its target audience networking platform. When iOS 14 released this fall, iPhone ($ 699 at Apple) users must choose targeted advertising. It is not an effort to assume that users do not eagerly choose to let Facebook, or any advertiser for that matter, track their Internet usage when given a choice.

But what about limiting ad tracking on your iPhone right now, even before iOS 14 is available? It’s possible, but it’s only possible in Apple’s own advertising network.

Below I follow how to limit ad tracking, what exactly it means and offer some of my own anecdotal experience after testing it myself.

Why restrict ad tracking?

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Ads in the App Store can become specific if you leave ad tracking on.

Jason Cipriani / CNET

The quick and easy answer: integrity. Ad tracking is a complex subject, full of nuances and privacy implications when companies have considered ways to track users’ online activity on multiple websites and devices.

An easy way to see ad tracking in action is to search for a product on Google or Amazon, wait a few minutes, then open the Facebook app on your phone and start scrolling through your feed. The odds are that you will see ads for that product category. It’s scary how quickly advertisers can target your account, all because you searched for something on a completely unrelated site.

By limiting or opting out of ad tracking, you can prevent advertisers from following you around the internet.

Until iOS 14 makes its official debut this fall, any changes you make to ad tracking on your iPhone or iPad ($ 268 at Back Market) only affects Apple’s ad network, which is used to display ads in the App Store, Apple News, and Stocks apps.

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No one wants to be tracked.

Jason Cipriani / CNET

Limit ad tracking on your iPhone or iPad

To turn on Limit ad tracking on your iPhone or iPad, open settings app and press Integrity then scroll to the bottom of the page and select Advertising. There you will find the option to restrict ad tracking, which should be turned off by default. Slide the slider to On then press the button labeled Reset ad identifier.

By resetting your ad ID, all information linked to you and your devices will be disconnected from you, which means that Apple will not continue to use that information to customize the ads displayed to you. You do not lose any function by resetting the ID.

Effectively, you start with a clean advertising profile. Combine that with restricting ad tracking and you should start seeing ads that do not appeal to you – and that’s exactly the point.

You can take it a step further by turning off location-based Apple ads by going to settings > Integrity > Location services > System services and turns off Location-based Apple ads.

After making the change

Although Apple’s advertising platform is limited to just a few apps, I’ve noticed a difference as I scroll through the App Store. Before I reset my ID and restrict ad tracking, I see ads for various apps, such as a PDF editor, several days after searching for apps that allow me to digitally sign a PDF.

Now my ads are more generic but still relevant. For example, instead of the ad marking an app like Adobe Fill & Sign, I see an ad for a scanner app.

I do not use the Apple News or Stocks app, so I can not talk about how much impact ad tracking has had on the experience in any of these apps. But I guess it’s similar to the App Store with more generalized ads.

It’s a small change, but one that will be even more dramatic when iOS 14 is released, probably in September.

If you want to take steps to restrict ad tracking in your browser, we have a guide that guides you by doing just that. In addition to ad tracking changes, Apple has also added a handful of privacy-focused features to iOS 14 which helps you keep everything from your location to your photo library completely private. If you want to check out the new iOS 14 features, you can sign up for the public beta right away, but it is probably best you wait until it is officially released.


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