iOS 14 and local network access

2020-09-03 2 min read

    Last week I installed the iOS 14 beta since I’m curious about what’s coming - even if it ends up bricking my phone. I expected it to come with more privacy features but one that surprised me was an alert that apps wanted to “find and connect to devices on your local network.” This is an obvious one Apple covered this functionality during WWDC. It’s interesting seeing which apps request this permission and speculate why.

    Both Facebook and WhatsApp requested it. The generous view is that this makes it easier and quicker to share large files with other devices on the same network. The cynical view is that this is another way for Facebook to track users through their devices. If they knew all the devices on the same network would they be able to identify households? Would they be able to identify the owners of the devices? Likely they can already do this but this is yet another weapon in their tracking arsenal.

    Google Photos was another one. The generous and cynical views are the same as above but I haven’t seen any other Google app request this permission so I’m more willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. The only two other apps that requested the permission were Signal and Sleep Cycle. Signal likely for the local file sharing use case and Sleep Cycle likely for some “smart device” integration.

    So far I’ve declined every single request and haven’t seen any additional requests. This might be because I just haven’t found the functionality in other apps that requests the feature or more likely that I just haven’t had to use many of the other apps. It’ll be interesting to see where else this request pops up.