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Can’t access Apple’s controversial new anti-tracking feature on your iPhone? Here’s why

Published Apr 28th, 2021 1:14PM EDT
iOS 14.5
Image: Apple

It might not be the most exciting addition of iOS 14.5, but App Tracking Transparency is definitely the most important new feature in the latest update for Apple’s mobile operating system. From now on, every iPhone app has to ask your permission before it can track your activity across other apps and websites, and you can choose to deny any or all of them that right. Unfortunately, the feature doesn’t seem to be working as intended for everyone, and now Apple has published a support document explaining why the feature might be grayed out on your iPhone.

Now that the feature has launched, you will start seeing prompts when you open an app for the first time asking you whether you want to “Ask App Not to Track” or “Allow” it to occur. Regardless of which option you choose, there is a new menu in Settings > Privacy > Tracking that lets you give or withdraw permission for any app on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. You’ll see an “Allow Apps to Request to Track” toggle here as well:

If you turn off “Allow Apps to Request to Track” in privacy settings, you’ll stop seeing prompts from apps that want to track your activity. Each app that asks for permission to track while this setting is turned off will be treated as if you tapped Ask App Not to Track. You can also choose to ask all apps that you previously allowed to track to stop tracking your activity. Or you can allow just the apps to which you previously gave permission to continue to track your activity.

This is where some iOS 14.5 users are running into trouble. Shortly after the update dropped, many people reported that the “Allow Apps to Request to Track” toggle was grayed out on their devices. Apple offered three reasons for why the feature might be disabled in an update to the support document mentioned above:

  • For users with child accounts or under age 18 by birth year, signed in with their Apple ID* (* Child account age varies by country and region.)
  • If your Apple ID is managed by an educational institution or uses a configuration profile that limits tracking
  • If your Apple ID was created in the last 3 days

If you fall into any of those three categories, you won’t be able to adjust the toggle, but it will be disabled by default, so all apps that request to track you will be automatically denied and will not receive your IDFA. If the status of your account or device changes, and you then choose to reactivate the feature, you will start to see the prompts on your device. According to 9to5Mac, there are users affected by this issue that don’t fall into any of the categories listed above, so this might be something Apple has to address in a future update.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.