The Corner

Science & Tech

The Spy Who Nagged Me

Just a funny thing I noticed. I recently updated the operating system on my iPhone to iOS 13. Apple is trying to communicate to customers that they take privacy seriously, and so there is now a new prompt that comes up every so often after you update, it asks you to give various apps access your phone’s Bluetooth settings. For instance, the Dunkin Donuts app did this to me.

Digging in, I realized that the apps that use Bluetooth in this way are probably doing so to track your location. Retailers and other companies install beacons in physical locations that can identify your phone when you are nearby it if you have Bluetooth enabled for that app. It’s a tricky thing, because when you get the notice you might think you’re enabling the app to use Bluetooth connected headphones, or some other device. But that’s done through the system settings. When you enable an app to use Bluetooth, you’re probably giving permission for them to spy on you. If Apple wants to help, it should require the notices describe what the purpose of enabling Bluetooth is in each app.

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