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How Apple helps protect your workout data

If you use a fitness tracking app, is your data being tracked?

Photo by: Kevin Mackinnon

Every day, thousands of triathletes use GPS watches and fitness apps to track their runs and workouts. What many of them may not realize is that every time they do this, data from those activities is collected, pieced together, shared, aggregated and monetized to be sold to businesses. Recently, Apple released the latest installment in its ongoing “Privacy. That’s iPhone” ad campaign, highlighting this issue and showing Apple users how to protect their data.

Related: Fitness meets health on the Apple Watch

According to sources at Apple, many apps (which includes fitness apps) include an average of six trackers from other companies with the sole purpose of collecting and tracking people and their personal information. This latest Apple commercial highlights the issue by following someone around as he goes about his daily routine. As he moves through his day, he uses common apps that many of us use regularly, from the coffee shop to taking a taxi. Each time he uses an app, a person representing a business starts following him around, until he is surrounded by a group of people, each one of them vying for his data. When he takes out his phone and starts the App Tracking Transparency (ATT) requests for apps to track him, the trackers begin to disappear.

Photo: Matt Stetson

Several experts are praising the new privacy measures, including Michelle Richardson of the Center for Democracy and Technology:

“Too often, consumers are unknowing participants in a web of data tracking and targeting,” she said in a statement. “These changes will help rebalance the ecosystem so that data collection and sharing is more transparent and tracking is no longer the default. Systemic change of this breadth is a huge leap forward for consumers.”

Apple’s new App Tracking Transparency is already available to Apple users. When using any app on their phone, Apple users will start to receive a message asking them whether or not they want to allow the app to track them. Users can also go into the app’s permissions at any time and change their privacy settings. In a statement from Apple itself, the company asserted that it is not opposed to advertising, but believes tracking should be transparent and under user control. To learn more about how apps track and use your data, watch this video, or check out the company’s “A Day in the Life of Your Data” report.