I’ve been enjoying the latest iOS 13 update for the past week (woot woot to dark mode!), but when I received a “Vudu Would lIke to Use Blooth” popup, I tilted my head and said, “why?” There are a number of legitimate reasons an app may request Bluetooth access. The first good reason that comes to mind is the ability to detect what device you’re connected to, to provide a unique experience. For example, if an application detects that I’m connected to my car stereo, it may automatically provide a unique driving mode (a few applications currently take advantage of this). Cool… but what are the not so good reasons? Well, applications like Vudo (Vudu is a subsidiary of Walmart) could, in theory, allow Walmart to track my location as I walk around a Walmart, building a unique profile based on my movements. If I hover around the green tea aisle of the store too long I shouldn’t be surprised if I received a targeted add for similar products. This can become increasingly concerning with an organization that has the ability to correlate different databases based on your email addresses or unique identifier.
The worst part is… the apps haven’t changed to add this notification. Only iOS has changed to notify the user when a specific app requests Bluetooth access. So, that Vudu app may have been using my Bluetooth signal for years without my knowledge. I give Apple credit for making this a mandatory feature in an attempt to provide better transparency and privacy.
How to Check Your Bluetooth Usage
Visit Settings -> Privacy -> Bluetooth on your iPhone and you’ll see a list of all of the applications that have requested Bluetooth access. The moral of the story is, you really want to trust the companies to whom you provide Bluetooth access.