Apple App Tracking Transparency might be buggy for some users

Apple has finally rolled out iOS 14.5 and, with it, the new App Tracking Transparency feature that has proven to be controversial, at least for advertisers and Facebook. The feature is designed to give users the first and last word on whether they will allow developers and advertisers to track their activity for advertising purposes. It seems, however, that the feature is misbehaving for some users, but in the most privacy-respecting way, ironically.

Under Apple's new app privacy policies, apps will have to ask users permission to track them when it gets run the first time. Whatever the user answers at this point can be undone in iOS's setting, allowing them to grant or revoke tracking permissions on a more granular level. Alternatively, users can still disallow any and all tracking just like before, no questions asked.

That is how it should work in theory but some users are reporting rather strange behavior. Some iPhone users who have upgraded to iOS 14.5 are seeing the "Allow App to Request to Track" switch not only turned off but also disabled with no way of turning it on again. In other words, all apps, both current and new, won't be able to track affected users nor can they even ask for permission.

The Internet has come up with theories on why this happened. Some think it's related to iPhones for underaged users or under MDM control but those affected by the bug aren't. 9to5Mac thinks it might be related to whether the Personalized Ads option was disabled or not prior to upgrading to iOS 14.5.

Regardless of the cause, this isn't the intended behavior of Apple's new privacy feature. The company hasn't responded to inquiries yet but it might only be a matter of time before a fix rolls out. Amusingly, this might mean that users experiencing the bug may be completely protected from tracking, which is probably good in Apple's eye.