Developers Call out Apple for Anti-Competitive Location Tracking Changes in iOS 13

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A group of iOS developers has written to Apple’s CEO Tim Cook expressing their unhappiness over the location-related changes in iOS 13 and have called it anti-competitive. In iOS 13, Apple is offering users even more granular control over their location data.

A location permission pop-up in iOS 13 has the option of granting an app location access only once, while the app is running, or to deny it altogether. The “Always Allow” option which was present in iOS 12 and below is missing from this pop-up. The option is still present but not shown in the pop-up. Instead, Apple has tucked it under Settings -> Privacy.

Due to this change, many apps which rely on access to a user’s location in the background to work properly are in trouble. They will have to show a secondary screen to users with steps on how to grant their app with permanent access to location data. This might deter many users or freak them out as they might not feel comfortable giving an app access to their location data in the background.

In the letter, the companies highlight that Apple’s own system apps like Find My do not require explicit “Always Allow” location permission from users to work properly. This is unfair to third-party apps and gives Apple an advantage just because it owns iOS. The developers want Apple to come up with a two-step process for granting location permission to apps.

The letter to Tim Cook has been signed by key executives of Tile, Arity, Life260, Zenly, Zendrive, Twenty, and Happn. The Cupertino company has already replied to the report.

“We take responsibility for ensuring that apps are held to a high standard for privacy, security and content because nothing is more important than maintaining the trust of our users,” an Apple spokesperson told The Information. “Users trust Apple — and that trust is critical to how we operate a fair, competitive store for developer app distribution. Any changes we make to hardware, software or system level apps is in service to the user, their privacy and providing them the best products and ecosystem in the world.”

The report from The Information claims that Apple is working with all the parties of the latter to work on alternative ways of location tracking.

[Via The Information]