iOS 13 forcing apps to ask for Bluetooth permissions – here's why

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If you own an iPhone, chances are you have now been prompted to download the latest major software update – iOS 13.

While the first thing you are likely to see upon installation is a prompt to enable the new dark mode, you will also quickly notice many apps now ask for permission to use Bluetooth.

Most iPhone users will associate their Bluetooth connection with pairing up wireless headphones and other accessories, so why would shopping and exercise apps need to use it?

Apple has tried to take advantage of suspicion around rival tech giants like Facebook and Google by making user privacy one of its main priorities.

This is why recent revelations that workers have been able to overhear private encounters by listening into user interactions with Siri were so awkward for the company.

Several extra privacy measures have been baked into iOS 13, includes forcing apps to ask for permission to do things they may well have been doing – potentially unbeknown to you – for years.

Image: Apple announced iOS 13 at its annual developer conference earlier this year

What does Bluetooth have to do with my privacy?

More from Apple

Bluetooth can be used to work out where your device is, with your iPhone capable of pinging so-called beacons that might be spread across high streets, shopping centres and other public locations.

Companies have been able to take advantage of this to work out where you are, which could allow them to serve up notifications and offers relevant to your location.

But this has always been separate to the specific location privacy options in your iPhone settings, so switching those off might not have made certain apps as ignorant as you thought.

Apps that have asked for Bluetooth permissions can be accessed in the settings of your iPhone

Image: Apps that have asked for Bluetooth permissions can be accessed in the settings of your iPhone

What should I do?

You can deny apps access to Bluetooth when you launch them in iOS 13 for the first time, when a pop-up will appear explaining why it wants to use the connection, or via the privacy section of the settings app.

Some apps really might need it, notably exercise apps that use Bluetooth to help track your workouts, and they should make that clear when asking for permission.

Ideally apps will provide a good reason why Bluetooth is needed

Image: Ideally apps will provide a good reason why Bluetooth is needed

But if the apps behave as normal upon Bluetooth permissions being denied, you can be safe in the knowledge that it never actually needed access to work.

Many apps asking for Bluetooth permission display a generic message

Image: Many apps asking for Bluetooth permission display a generic message

Will messing with these settings affect my headphones?

No – this is all totally separate to how Bluetooth is handled at a system level.

You can deny individual apps permission without it affecting the iPhone itself, meaning there will be no issues with your headphones or any other devices that connect via Bluetooth.

Girl Listening Music in Airpods and Singing Song on Sofa, Free Space

Image: Wireless earphones will still work

What else I can do to protect my privacy?

Once you install iOS 13, you will start getting reminders about which apps are tracking your location in the background, mostly from things like maps.

You could tell them to only track your location when the app is actually open, or provide consent on a one-off basis.

But Apple has not yet rolled out the ability for users to opt out of having heir interactions with Siri recorded, which the likes of Amazon and Google already allow for their voice assistants.

That feature is not expected until later this year.

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