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Friday, 19 October 2012 10:12

Apple spying on users again

Written by Nick Farrell

apple

Hopes no one will notice

Jobs' Mob, which was in all sorts of hot water when it was caught tracking its users, is up to its old tricks again.

Apple was slammed by privacy experts protested the use of a universal device identifier, or UDID, to track the online preferences of iPhone and iPad users. This made it a perfect target for hackers who broke into digital media firm Bluetoad and made off with close to a million device IDs.

It looks like Apple remains addicted to tracking its users. According to Naked Security iOS 6 has a new tracking system called IDFA, or identifier for advertisers. Like the UDID, the IDFA uniquely identifies your Apple device and any websites that you browse with your iPhone or iPad device can request the IDFA.

While UDID could be tracked to users the IDFA can't be traced back to individuals, it merely links a pattern of online behaviour with a specific device. In other words, it knows all about you, just not your name.

Fortunately it can be disabled from within iOS, though Apple leaves it enabled, by default and hopes no one will notice. The IDFA acts like a persistent cookie on the phone: allowing advertisers to track user surfing behaviour on their phone and record interactions up to and including purchases or downloads.

Michael Oiknine, the CEO of mobile application analytics firm Apsalar said that IDFA offered many advantages over the discredited UDID. For a start the IDFA is reset when the device, itself, is reset. That will prevent user data from being corrupted when they sell or transfer their phone to a new owner, Oiknine said.

What is a little alarming is that  IDFA stands a good chance of being adopted universally, clearing up confusion created by competing standards like OpenUDID and ODIN.


Nick Farrell

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