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Why iPhone Apps Ask for “Devices on Your Local Area Network”



Local network access on an iPhone with iOS 14

iPhone and iPad apps must request permission to “find and connect to devices on your local network.” This request was updates for iOS 14 and iPadOS 14. Here’s what this message means and how to respond to it.

Why apps ask to scan your local network

When an iPhone or iPad app wants to scan your local network for devices and connect to them, it must first ask for permission.

You see a dialog box that says that an app “wants to find and connect to devices in your local network”

; when you use many apps. You have only two options: “Do not allow” or “OK”.

If you grant access, an app can scan the networks you connect to for devices. For example, an app that needs to connect to a smart speaker or a Chromecast needs this access to find such devices on your network and connect to them. If you do not allow access to local network scanning, it will not find the local device.

However, some apps seem to request access for unclear purposes. For example, the Facebook app asks for this permission – maybe so you can cast videos to another device? We’ve also seen this call appear in banking applications, and we’m not sure why.

Apps can theoretically use this feature to collect data on your network – for example, they can detect smart devices on your network and use that information to fine-tune an advertising profile about you.

Before Apple introduces this prompt, iPhone or iPad apps may do so in the background without your permission. The scan is not new – the only thing new here is the question.

Should you allow or deny the request?

Spotify asks to scan the local network on an iPhone

If you plan to use a feature that requires you to find and connect to a device on your local network in that app, you should allow the request. Here are some examples of requests you should allow:

  • Music apps, if you plan to connect to a smart speaker.
  • Video apps, if you plan to stream to a Chromecast or other device.
  • Smarthome apps that find and connect to devices on your network.

If you do not plan to use a feature that requires this – for example, if you only listen to music on your Spotify headphones and do not plan to connect to a smart speaker – you can easily deny this request.

Even if you change your mind, you can quickly turn on or off an app’s access to your local network in the Settings app.

If you have no idea why an app wants this feature – for example, if an online banking app wants to search for local devices – we recommend that you deny the request. It helps protect your privacy and ensures that apps can not collect as much data about your network and the devices you own.

How to control local network access later

If you change your mind later and want to give an app local network access – or revoke the app’s ability to access devices on your local network – you can change this later.

To do so, go to Settings> Privacy> Local area network on your iPhone. All apps that have requested permission to access your local network are listed here. Apps with a green switch have access to your local network, while apps with a dimmed switch do not. Press the switch to allow or deny local network access for an app.

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