This application would like to access your device’s Bluetooth capabilities. Oh, and also your location, personal information, and the list goes on and on … 


Bluetooth Access PLEASE

To begin this article, not too long ago, I received an odd pop up on my iPhone (see image below).




The image shown above says that Ulta Beauty would like to use the Bluetooth access on my device. After quickly denying the access, I became quite puzzled. 

Now, I thought that this was quite odd. For one, I was scrolling through Instagram at the time of the pop up, not while using the Ulta app. Also, I was not even located within 30 miles of a brick and mortar Ulta Beauty location. 

Continuing, this prompted me to dive into researching why the Ulta Beauty app would need access to my device’s Bluetooth capabilities. 


The Investigation

To begin my quest of discovery, I took the world wide web. I scrolled through many articles that simply discussed Bluetooth devices connecting to your phone. For example, an Apple Watch, Airpods, or speaker will ask permissions to connect to your device. 

This is a concept that I am fully aware of, obviously. My next step on my search needed to be finding some sort of research or article that specifically focused on applications needing Bluetooth access, supposedly. 

At this point, I discovered something called location beacons. Many stores began to use this type of technology to “enhance user and customer experience.” Stores like Ulta, Target and other store fronts utilize this tool to connect with its customers quite literally.

The beacons work by detecting your location (near a store for example) then asking for Bluetooth access. This Bluetooth access, in some places, allows customers to access promotion or be directed towards an item inside the store.

But, this convenience then allows the app / business to run in the background of your phone and, for example, constantly track your location.  


Searching in Vain

Moving on, my main question still remains unanswered. Why did the application prompt me for Bluetooth permissions when I wasn’t near a store? 

I understand the prompting if I was using the application, or near a store front. The beacon tool mentioned above would make perfect sense.

My only thought is that I need to check my application permissions for that app specifically. Maybe once upon a time when I downloaded it, I didn’t double check the access permissions. 

So that is what I did. Upon further investigation, nothing alarming stood out. Location services are not active, and that about covers anything that could possibly relate to the request. 

Now what?


The Resolution

Just when I was about to put this train of thought to rest, I decided to take one more dive into the web. This is when I discovered that this Bluetooth access request may be due to the IOS 13 update. 

To elaborate, as a part of the IOS 13 initiative to improve user privacy and security, Apple enforced applications to request Bluetooth access, instead of just using it without user permission. 

So, I arrived at the conclusion that the Ulta app (among many others) used my devices Bluetooth capabilities in the past without my permission. Now, with the IOS 13 update, it is all coming out of the woodwork. Many of the apps on my iPhone followed suit with the Ulta app in asking for Bluetooth permissions. 


Preventing Unnecessary Bluetooth Access

All in all, after that deep dive into the world of forbidden Bluetooth access, you may be wondering what you can do to prevent apps from accessing your device capabilities. 

One, do not allow Bluetooth access to the app. Certain exceptions exist, but most of the time apps do not need access to your Bluetooth. But, if you change your mind and might need the Bluetooth access for a certain application function, you always have the option to enable it. 

Next, always check application permissions in settings. This type of usage concern stems beyond just Bluetooth. Location tracking is also a big one. Check which applications have access to your location or can track it. 

Some apps require location services to function. As the user, you have the ability to manage this type of access in the application settings. 

In short, we once again found another way that big brother is trying to keep tabs on us for our “benefit”. Just remember, this type of scenario is manageable, and you can decide what applications can access your device’s Bluetooth capabilities. 


By Taylor Ritchey