See which podcasts track you and insert ads with Overcast

Are you being tracked by the podcasts you listen to? Yes! Did you know podcasts track you? Do you know who tracks you or how they track you? What do they know about you? Find out now!

There is a lot of tracking going on these days and every time you or an app connects to the internet, someone, somewhere is probably trying to track you. They want to know who you are, everything about you and what you do.

There has been some progress in the fight against tracking and selling your personal information and the privacy information displayed in the iOS App Store is very useful. You can see at a glance what information an app will collect about you and who they share it with before you install it. You can then choose to go ahead or avoid the app.

It may come as a surprise to discover that Podcasts track you in various ways. Information is collected about you and possibly shared with third parties. If you are a podcast fan, did you know that you are being tracked?

Where is the privacy information for podcasts that is so readily available in the App Store? Why can’t we see what information is being gathered about us from the podcasts we listen to?

Maybe a future update to the Apple Podcasts app will include privacy notices and information, so if you are reading this a year from now, the situation may be different. Right now, you need to use an app called Outcast.

Outcast is a podcast player app in the iOS App Store and as with apps, you can see privacy information before you subscribe to a podcast. It shows who is tracking you, which technologies they use and more.

Outcast podcast player

Overcast podcast player in the iOS app store
Overcast in the iOS App Store

There are many podcast players for the iPhone, but this one is a great one and it has a very high 4.8 rating from thousands of users. Go and install it, it is free. It may display a banner ad on the playback screen, but this can be removed with a cheap subscription costing less than $1 a month.

Browsing podcasts with Overcast podcast player on the iPhone
Browsing top podcasts in Overcast

It is fairly typical of a podcast player and you can browse a directory containing lists of recommended podcasts, top podcasts and so on. You can also search for podcasts and there are many more than can be seen in the directory, which are just the most popular ones.

Podcast privacy

Where it gets interesting is when you tap a podcast to see more information about it. In addition to the usual title, thumbnail image and description, there is a Privacy & Tracking link.

Overcast podcast player privacy link
Privacy link for a podcast

Right now (Feb 2021), Apple Podcasts does not show any privacy information, but that may change in the future. Outcast does. Press that Privacy & Tracking link.

Overcast podcast app privacy information
Detailed podcast privacy information

Here you can see all the ways in which you are tracked when you download and listen to this podcast. Your IP address may be recorded, which could be linked to you and the tracking may track you across multiple shows or the web to build up a profile about you.

Tap each of the items and more details are displayed about what information is being gathered about you and how it is being used.

Overcast podcast app sowing privacy information
Ad insertion and tracking

Not all podcasts are the same and in addition to tracking you, this one also includes DAI (Dynamic Ad Insertion), in other words it can insert ads into the podcast you download.

Unlike a web browser, there is no way to block the tracking or ads in podcasts. You just have to put up with it or don’t subscribe or play the podcasts. There are some that have little or no tracking and no ads, but far too many with tracking and ads.

It is up to you whether you accept the ads and tracking or not. At least with Outcast you can see who is tracking you. With Apple Podcasts you can’t, unless a future update copies Outcast’s privacy feature.


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