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IOS Privacy Apple

User Tracking Back On iOS 6 188

Posted by timothy
from the stephen-king-needs-to-get-on-this dept.
First time accepted submitter connor4312 writes "Apple got caught with its hand in the cookie jar when privacy experts protested the use of a universal device identifier, or UDID, to track the online preferences of iPhone and iPad users. Enough is enough, right? Well, maybe not. It looks like device tracking is back with iOS 6, courtesy of a new tracking technology: IDFA, or identifier for advertisers."
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User Tracking Back On iOS 6

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  • Oh no! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Kenja (541830) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @12:42PM (#41695483)
    They know I'm at Starbucks! Now how will I write my screen play in peace?
    • Re:Oh no! (Score:5, Funny)

      by slashmydots (2189826) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @01:00PM (#41695823)
      Whoa whoa whoa, there mister technology-whore. Just remember...
      Real hipsters use typewriters [xojane.com]
      • There's probably money to be made by a mechanical typewriter driven wirelessly by iPhone dictation. That way all the other patrons can marvel at your genius while being serenaded by clackity-clack.
        • by Dr Max (1696200)
          I don't think the illusion works if people have any kind of idea what drivel (if anything) they are writing.
    • Re:Oh no! (Score:5, Informative)

      by _xeno_ (155264) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @01:23PM (#41696215) Homepage Journal

      Before anyone dismisses that as just a joke, it's literally true in iOS 6 if you use the new "Passbook" feature. Every time you pull up the lock screen with Passbook enabled, Passbook does a GPS fix and checks in with Apple to find out if it should display one of the little Passbook cards.

      So, yeah. Apple really does know every time you're at Starbucks - if you use the Starbucks app and iOS 6's Passbook.

      Oh, and note I said "lock screen," not "unlock the phone." Just pressing the "hold" button to display the lock screen checks in with Apple.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 18, 2012 @02:11PM (#41696979)

        Before anyone dismisses that as just a joke, it's literally true in iOS 6 if you use the new "Passbook" feature. Every time you pull up the lock screen with Passbook enabled, Passbook does a GPS fix and checks in with Apple to find out if it should display one of the little Passbook cards.

        Or you could, you know, disable "show on lockscreen" for all of your passes and don't set favorite stores for your Starbucks pass ... and then Passbook won't do a GPS fix every time you pull up the lock screen.

        You can still have and use Passbook passes, it just won't auto-display when your near a Starbucks. Heck, once you have the pass enrolled in Passbook you can even delete the Starbucks app off your phone.

        • by spire3661 (1038968) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @03:03PM (#41697759) Journal
          And im supposed to believe that the software is going to honor those flags in a way most humans would deem reasonable, right? There is no action you can take on your iphone that Apple cannot override. I own one, and at first i was really enjoyed the tech of it. Airplay, facetime etc all in a nice package. But as i dive deeper into iOS the entire thing is about control from end to end. It is impossible to gain absolute positive control over the device, even with jailbreaking. The entirety of the device is a big ass life sensor.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by TRRosen (720617)

        OMG location based features know our location!!!!! Who would have thunk it.

      • by Cinder6 (894572)

        Of course, even if you disable the various Passbook checking-in features, Starbucks will still know where you are if you use your Starbucks card...

        Is it even possible to take advantage of modern technology/conveniences and not be tracked by anyone? I doubt it.

  • by Sez Zero (586611) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @12:45PM (#41695535) Journal
    If you want to turn off device tracking using the IDFA on your iOS6 device, do the following:

    1) Click on Settings.
    2) Click on General to access the General Settings.
    3) Click About
    4) Scroll down and click on Advertising.
    5) Set Limit Ad Tracking to "ON".

    Default On. This seems like the mobile version of Do Not Track [slashdot.org], and we all know how that is turning out.
    • by Kenja (541830) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @12:50PM (#41695653)
      Mine defaulted to off... But in truth the process of getting to it reminds me of "It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard'". They dont exactly put it in an easy to find location or draw any attention to it.
      • by Sez Zero (586611)
        Mine was off as well, and I don't think I've ever seen that setting before. I got the "default on" from TFA, so maybe that isn't correct?

        Also the "Read More" on the Settings page says that in the future all Apps will be required to use IDFA, so isn't this a good thing to be able to control tracking from the device and NOT have it be ignored, like DNT?
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by samkass (174571)

        In this case "off" means "you're allowed to track me". Set it to "on" if you want to explicitly limit advertiser's activities.

        I'm glad Apple provides this, and it's a nice differentiator for them since Google needs to track users to maintain their profits while Apple just wants to sell you devices.

        • I'm glad Apple provides this, and it's a nice differentiator for them since Google needs to track users to maintain their profits while Apple just wants to sell you devices.

          Android has a similar switch to limit ad tracking, they just call it interest based ads [dottech.org] and make it easier to find even.

          However it says nothing about what Google themselves may still track, to me these switches are all about what third parties can get from you.

          • by ThatsMyNick (2004126) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @02:12PM (#41696989)

            The first time activated my phone (it is the screen where you can add your google account if you want to, and is standard on every android phone and tablet I have seen), I was asked if wanted "Interest based ads", I did not opted in and never had to worry about it. So android does not really have the same thing.

            • So android does not really have the same thing.

              As the "thing" is the ability to opt out of interest based ads just like Apple is offering now - yes, yes it does. You just said it did.

              • by Dishevel (1105119)

                I think his point was that Apples version is defaulted on in a not obvious place that you have to find to turn off.
                Android has a question that it specifically asks you when you first use the phone.
                One is hidden and defaulted to on while the other is an in your face question.
                Not really the same thing.

        • by manaway (53637) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @02:06PM (#41696921)

          Yes it's a good option to have, but parsing it is difficult. If I don't want ad tracking, I must turn it off, but "on" turns ad tracking off, right? How confusing! While programmers are used to thinking in negatives, mixed with yes/no and true/false, that is not the norm. Compare:

          [yes] [no] Allow ad tracking
          [off] [on] Limit ad tracking

          Both are logical and equivalent, but the first is far easier to comprehend and mark according to your preference. Apple, and other corporate software, likely does this intentionally. Of the small percentage of people who will find this setting, even fewer will mark it correctly. Result? Far more monitoring while getting kudos for providing the option. And that is how marketing experts earn their money.

          • by kthreadd (1558445)
            In an ideal world that would be a better way to put it.

            However, nothing in there allows or disallows tracking. Advertisers can always create their own way of tracking you. All this does is turn off the way Apple provides as an alternative so that advertisers shouldn't do the bad ways, such as uploading your address book to their server and use that as a tracking id (that hole is actually fixed now).
          • by mrbester (200927)

            It's a new example of a dark pattern.

        • by s.petry (762400)

          In this case "off" means "you're allowed to track me". Set it to "on" if you want to explicitly limit advertiser's activities.

          I'm glad Apple provides this, and it's a nice differentiator for them since Google needs to track users to maintain their profits while Apple just wants to sell you devices.

          Hahahaha, sorry but I had to laugh. Apple is no different than Google in regards to tracking since it boils down to revenue for both of them. You make it sound like Apple generates no revenue from the Ads or does not care about ad revenue. I hate to break the news to you, but there is no innocence here.

          Now does Apple "also" generate revenue from hardware and such? Sure, but at least be honest. If they had no interest in the ad revenue, they would not have the software built in to track you. Well, I gu

      • They dont exactly put it in an easy to find location or draw any attention to it.

        Why would they? This is how they convince people to develop for iOS, and I'm just guessing that Apple probably gets a chunk of those advertising dollars too.

        Spoiler: tracking for advertisers is always going to be a feature in most mobile devices.

      • It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying "Beware of the Mountain Lion".

        FTFY

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Why couldn't Apple put this on their Privacy settings menu?
      • by MarkGriz (520778)

        Because that's where you'd expect to find it.

      • Here is an even more obscure privacy setting. If you read through the privacy page here...
        http://www.apple.com/privacy/ [apple.com]
        You'll notice about halfway down the page in the "cookies and other technology" section a discussion of interest based advertising, which is basically iAd's targeted at you based on your usage habits. The only way to opt out of this "feature" on an iOS device is to click on the link in that paragraph to http://oo.apple.com/ [apple.com] from Safari on your iOS device, which will bring you to a set
    • except, "In the future all apps will be required to use the Advertising Identifier. However, until then you may still receive targeted ads."
    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @01:02PM (#41695863) Journal

      If you want to turn off device tracking using the IDFA on your iOS6 device, do the following:

      1) Click on Settings.

      2) Click on General to access the General Settings.

      3) Click About

      4) Scroll down and click on Advertising.

      5) Set Limit Ad Tracking to "ON".

      Default On. This seems like the mobile version of Do Not Track [slashdot.org], and we all know how that is turning out.

      Just to note, in case anybody mistakes this for good faith on Apple's part, that the "Settings" application also has a tab called 'Privacy', where you will notfind any mention of this new feature. Instead, it goes under 'General', for reasons that I'm certain aren't cynical in the slightest.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 18, 2012 @01:51PM (#41696711)

        don't forget the word usage: "Limit Ad Tracking..." it doesn't say anything about disabling, just limiting.

        • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @01:59PM (#41696817) Journal

          don't forget the word usage: "Limit Ad Tracking..." it doesn't say anything about disabling, just limiting.

          It isn't entirely clear to me if that is some sort of weasel wording about what that button deliberately doesn't do, or just an admission that there are a variety of other mechanisms, of varying degrees of subtlety and creativity, that advertising networks can and do use against you, for which the presence of the IDFA is irrelevant(ie. any app that is connected to a 3rd party login, most obviously, can be expected to own you whether or not it has a device ID to assist it).

          • by kallisti (20737) <rmidthun@yahoo.com> on Thursday October 18, 2012 @02:39PM (#41697345) Homepage

            First of all, I would like to clear up a common misconception. Apple did NOT ban the use of the UDID in iOS5. The few applications that did get banned did so because they stored the UDID without telling the user. If there's some legal text anywhere in the app that says they are storing this information, then they are fine. The UDID is marked as deprecated, which is just a compile time warning, but still works just fine. It is still used by a lot of people, too.

            As for the new advertisingIdentifier, the Apple documentation on this subject is perfectly clear. Anyone can request the advertising device identifier, but developers are required to call advertisingTrackingEnabled. If that value is NO, the the id can only be used for: "frequency capping, conversion events, estimating the number of unique users, security and fraud detection, and debugging"

            Note that this is entirely the responsibility of the developer to make sure that's all that is being done. Apple will probably pull any developer that is caught not respecting this, but how can you ever really know?

          • by Kergan (780543)

            I doubt there's any weasel wording from Apple here. Insofar as I understood it, the setting is -- and can only be, for that matter -- only relevant to iAds. "Limit Ad Tracking" probably means: "Disable user-tracking for iAds. Third-party Ad networks won't care about this setting."

      • Actually, this obfuscation works against apple, or better, defeats the "limit tracking" trick's usefulness. As you will most likely only find the setting upon reading instructions, you will have been warned about the misleading button. If they'd put it as a clear privacy setting for people to set themselves, most would have probably allowed the tracking due to confusion about the correct setting.
    • by ThatsNotPudding (1045640) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @01:11PM (#41695993)
      If Apple had any respect for thier customers, this would default to off. But just like Facebook, even Apple has decided their customers are the advertisers, not the mere users (aka product). But the Samsung ads speak a bit of truth and among the devout, this will not even stir a teapot-sized tempest, for Cupertino knows best.
      • by Cinder6 (894572)

        It shouldn't default to any state. It should specifically ask you, when you first set up the phone, what your preference is:

        "Apps downloaded from the App Store may display advertisements. Do you wish to allow us to collect information about yourself in order to deliver ads relevant to your interests?"

        • With the default choice (you know, the one users click on when they do not bother to read what they are clicking on) being, "No thanks."
    • by PeanutButterBreath (1224570) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @01:13PM (#41696037)

      5) Set Limit Ad Tracking to "ON".

      When I want something stopped, period, I don't request that it be "limited". Weasel words like this rarely appear by accident. They are usually, ahem, limited to strategic implementations.

      • That is because it doesn't stop all tracking. For example, it doesn't stop tracking while you are browsing the web in the mobile browser. Saying "Stop Ad Tracking" is less accurate than "Limit Ad Tracking".

    • by pitchpipe (708843) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @01:36PM (#41696475)

      If you want to turn off device tracking using the IDFA on your iOS6 device, do the following:

      • 1) Click on Settings.
      • 2) Click on General to access the General Settings.
      • 3) Click About
      • 4) Scroll down and click on Advertising.
      • 5) Set Limit Ad Tracking to "ON".

      6) Press and hold the 'Power' button for five minutes.

      7) Say "Steve Jobs is now a god" seven times and really mean it.

      8) Put the phone in a glass case on a raised pedestal under spotlights in the middle of your living room.

      9) Leave it there for forty days and forty nights.

      10) Take phone out of the glass case and place it in a 100 lb. bag of virgin white rice.

      11) Hermetically seal bag.

      12) Leave it there for three days.

      Device tracking will now probably be turned off for the next 15 minutes. If it's not, try repeating the instructions above, but this time do them with enthusiasm.

  • by JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @12:46PM (#41695567)
    Tech companies as a whole value your privacy almost as much as a fat kid values vegetables.
    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Tech companies as a whole value your privacy almost as much as a fat kid values vegetables.

      But ... but ... french fries and ketchup are two vegetables aren't they?

      What fat kid doesn't love fries and ketchup?

      And, by "value your privacy", you mean commoditize and make money from, right?

    • Tech companies as a whole value your privacy almost as much as a fat kid values vegetables.

      It hardly shocks me; but I do find it a little surprising. Obviously, Apple doesn't give a fuck about you; but they make fantastic margins on their hardware and have been relatively successful in building online services that people will spend actual money(albeit generally in small chunks) for software and media through.

      Google, their most dangerous competitor in the space(Amazon is worth a mention, for their good conversion rates and strongly integrated markets for physical goods as well; but their devices

    • by guttentag (313541)
      Wait... We all know that tech companies will beat you up and take your privacy away.

      But if the fat kids at your school valued your veggies the way tech companies value your privacy, you must have had some pretty smart fat kids who aren't fat anymore. Did you go to school with Tim Cook?
    • Tech companies as a whole value your privacy almost as much as a fat kid values vegetables.

      Those that don't flat out refuse to acknowledge it, can't stop chewing it away.

    • Except fat kids are never so brash as to declare that eating vegetables is dead. Tech executives on the other hand are always trying to tell us that privacy is obsolete, so don't worry about it. [msn.com]
    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      The fattest kids I know these days are vegetarians. All those veggie oils instead of healthy animal fat don't do you any good.

  • IDFA? (Score:5, Funny)

    by BobNET (119675) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @12:49PM (#41695627)

    Full armor, full ammo, all weapons, but no keys.

    I think I'll wait for IDKFA.

  • Come on, there is money to be made and this is America, son!

  • by falcon5768 (629591) <Falcon5768@@@comcast...net> on Thursday October 18, 2012 @12:53PM (#41695703) Journal
    Not only was Apple not using the UDID for user tracking (app developers were and against developer policies might I add) but specifically for iOS beta tracking, but IDFA specifically was mentioned by Apple as the legal way for app creators to do it in the future and is opt-outable. But then you cant spook idiot users can you Sophos into buying your products if you are actually honest.
    • What products is this spooking idiot users into buying again? Sophos doesn't sell to consumers, they sell to IT, and the only iOS apps they "sell" are free or bundled with some enterprise contract.... They might have spook articles on that blog, but this didn't seem to be one of them.

      And I didn't know about IDFA, and it wasn't in the Security/Privacy sections where I'd expect it (I mean... About? Really? You hide an information security option in the About section, which should only have information "ab

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by guttentag (313541)
      It's not FUD.

      Apple has deliberately buried the opt out option as a cop out for a feature that adds no value whatsoever to the customer's device or experience but allows third parties to make money by exploiting their privacy where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. This should be an "opt in" feature by default if there are truly people who "want to support the poor advertisers." Beyond that I think there needs to be a push for access to the hosts file on phones so the user can take control of wh
  • by Krojack (575051) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @12:55PM (#41695747)

    So you can only "Limit Ad Tracking" and not fully disable it? Ummm ok..

    • by poetmatt (793785)

      even better, you can't disable apple's tracking - this is just 3rd parties.

    • by synapse7 (1075571)
      Call me a troll and captain obvious, but stick with ios5?
      • by Krojack (575051)

        Or move to Android. =) I did 2 years ago but it seems that didn't solve my problem [slashdot.org] because I went with Verizon. I did however root my phone and removed every app I could that had anything Verizon in it. I'm not really sure how they do their tracking.

        • by TRRosen (720617)

          nope android users aren't dumb at all. Hey clueless they're your wireless carrier. If your phone is on they are tracking you! Do you think when you make calls they have no idea what phone is connecting to there network? It doesn't matter what phone or what carrier if you connect they know where you are. It's part of the connection protocol and can never be turned off. And unless your VPNing they know every site you visit.

          • by Krojack (575051)

            They would need something added to the Android OS to track what apps I'm using and how much I use those apps. This doesn't haven't anything to do with tracking phone calls or GPS/A-GPS location and what not. In other words, Carrier IQ which by using every scanner I can find says my phone doesn't have it. *shrugs*

    • by Cinder6 (894572)

      "Limit" because there are still apps out there that don't use the new ID code, and thus will not (can not) respect the user's wish not to be tracked.

      For myself, I don't think tracking for advertising purposes is as big a deal as many make it out to be. It's a bit creepy, yes, but at the same time, targeted ads can be useful. Take, for instance, Amazon's Special Offers on the Kindle. It doesn't seem to use targeted ads. At least I hope it doesn't; else Amazon must think I'm a crossdresser, because right

  • Root your phone and install a Custom Rom with no Tracking, Oh Wait, that's only for Android Phones. Sucks to own an iPhone!
  • by XanC (644172)

    Is there anything about Safari on iOS6 that doesn't suck? Particularly egregious is the fact that it caches POST responses. Yes, you read that right. I don't know what kind of brain damage leads somebody to believe that's an acceptable thing to do.

  • Any app with an internet connection can track you without your knowledge simply by phoning home with some sort of unique identifier, like a UUID [wikipedia.org]. The only way to not be tracked by apps is to turn on Airplane Mode and never turn it off.

    The problem with the UDID was that it was visible across all applications, so that multiple apps that tracked a user via UDID could correlate their results. For example, imagine app A phones home with just your contact info, and app B phones home your porn-browsing history.

  • Choice is a good thing!
    Now you get to choose to be...
    a) Apple's bitch
    b) Google's bitch
    c) Microsoft's bitch
    Whose bitch are you?

  • I set up a web page to capture everything and had an iPhone running iOS6 visit it, but could not see anything that looked like an ID. Anyone any idea?
  • by Crudely_Indecent (739699) on Thursday October 18, 2012 @04:47PM (#41699013) Journal

    Before IOS5, it was a simple process to get the UDID and use it for any purpose you wanted. Then, Apple decreed it off limits. It was still there, but your app would get rejected if they found you were using this restricted method.

    My solution - get the Wifi MAC address. It's unique, available, and Apple doesn't stop anyone from getting it. So why would anyone send the IDFA, which the user can disable - when they could send a MAC address - which the user cannot disable?

  • According to Apple [apple.com]:

    If the user has limited ad tracking, use the advertising identifier only for the following purposes: frequency capping, conversion events, estimating the number of unique users, security and fraud detection, and debugging.

    In other words, disabling targeted/personalised ads doesn't disable tracking at all.

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