Starting with iOS 8, Apple is making it impossible for marketers to track you based on your iPhone’s MAC address.
When you walk around a store with your iPhone’s WiFi on, you’re are unknowingly transmitting your MAC address, a unique identifier for your device. Routers need the identifier to join you to a network. Ad agencies and retailers have been tracking these addresses to help offer personalized advertisements to customers based on where they’ve been.
Apple is putting a stop to this practice with MAC address scrambling in iOS 8, which could turn out to be a big win for iBeacon.
iOS 8 randomises the MAC address while scanning for WiFi networks. Hoping that this becomes an industry standard. pic.twitter.com/oGsZMtydUo
— Frederic Jacobs (@FredericJacobs) June 8, 2014
The change makes it impossible for you to be tracked consistently via MAC address like before, but Apple could also have an ulterior motive behind the decision. iBeacon, a standard Apple introduced in iOS 7, will likely be pushed as the only way for retailers to track iPhones based on location.
iBeacons have already been integrated into popular retail stores, sports stadiums, and museums, but the company is planning to boost iBeacons even more with iOS 8. Using iBeacons, a feature in the developer beta shows a shortcut to an app associated with where you are. So when you walk into the Apple Store, the icon for the Apple Store app appears on the corner of your lockscreen.
Since MAC addresses will be useless for tracking iPhones from place to place, many more marketers and retailers will likely turn to iBeacons in the months to come.