How privacy works when accessing apps to the location

Privacy for Apple is more than a feature. Something very similar happens with accessibility. Your interest goes beyond a simple function to cover and we could say that we talk about defining characteristics of your brand image. And for that they put a lot of effort into refining and debugging these years after year.

In the case of privacy, Apple has the clear objective of better protecting our data and making it clear that your product is not us and our data: it is your devices. And they protect us from the increasingly relentless abuse of developers with few scruples that are enriched with our data. And why not say it, They also educate us to give it the true importance it has and that many times we do not give.

In this year, this year Apple has taken a new and important step in one of the key functions that tempt those developers who wish to profit indirectly with our data: the location.

This is how the location works now

If we develop apps for iOS systems, one of the first things we learn is that when we try to access some feature of the system that involves access to private data, Apple forces the app to request granular access.

What does that mean? It is that alert that appears when an app tries to access for the first time the microphone, or a Bluetooth device, or the camera, the photo album or the location, among many other functions of the device. Apple forces developers to indicate a descriptive message in all languages ​​of the app, to inform the user of the purpose we pursue with it when accessing that feature. And this text is reviewed by reviewers Apple to approve the app or not once sent for publication.

If we do not indicate a descriptive text for each feature of the device that affects privacy, the app hangs for security. And if the key has been set but nothing has been indicated or a clear message has not been given, Apple reject the app.

Until now, the permits regarding the location had 2 degrees: use of the location only within the app and use outside the app in the background. Depending on the version of iOS supported we have different lines to include:

  • NSLocationWhenInUseUsageDescription specifies the message when the app uses the location only when it is open.
  • If we want to access this data also outside (in the background) we must use NSLocationAlwaysAndWhenInUseUsageDescription.
  • If our app supports iOS 10, in addition to these two, to use the background location when the app is closed, we must include this NSLocationAlwaysUsageDescription.

This way, if an app asks for permission to use the location I will do it in a single dialogue asking:

  • Only when using the app
  • Always allow
  • Do not allow

Changes in iOS 13

In iOS 13, the option to always allow to disappear of that dialogue when updating our device. Instead we are asked:

  • Allow when in use
  • Allow only once
  • Do not allow

As we can see, the option is always replaced only once in case it is a punctual location like a Tweet that we want to be geolocated or an image on Instagram. But nothing more.

Labeling a location (for example) does not deserve a locate when the app is in use why endangers our privacy and leaves the developer permission to abuse the occasion we have given him by trusting him.

What happens then with the apps that need the location always, even when we are in the background? They will have to ask for an additional permit. When this app (prior to granting it permission to use within the app, if not, it will not be able to) try to locate us in the background without the app open, will the system generate a new alert: allow XXXX to access your location? Give the explanation that has included the app below and we will have two options:

  • Leave alone when used
  • Keep allow forever.

Thus, We will be much more alert of those apps that want to know more about us without having to.

If we want an app to locate us at any time to offer us the restaurants with the best offers around us, we are owners of our data. But what let's be fully aware of it. Honestly, I prefer to be the one who, when I'm interested, start the app to find a restaurant.

But ah the thing does not end: iOS 13 take a count of how many times an app to which we have previously given permission to use the location always, makes use of that service. And every few days remind us: The XXXX app has been using your background location. And he will tell us even the number of times he has done it. In this reminder, give us the option to remove those permissions and to become only during use or continue to allow forever.

Why does Apple do this? In my opinion, by education. On many occasions, and I first, we are not aware of the permissions that we sometimes grant to apps and, above all, we forget what we gave them. I am sure that these types of reminders and new improvements will come in future versions of iOS to other features beyond the location.

The system does not allow apps to ask permission to locate in the foreground background: it will be done on a second request. Also, remember every time which apps have permission in case we want to revoke it.

From my point of view, a permission to access the photos of the device only once will be a function that would be very good to have. There are apps that do not have to access our entire library as long as that permission continues perennial ah. A new access permit will only be fine once, not only for photos, but for many other functions. As well as the reminders for which apps we gave them permission and how much they used that permission we gave them. I am convinced that it will make us much more responsible for our privacy and we will learn better to manage it.