Devs could resort to workarounds to avoid iOS 14 anti-tracking feature

Devs could resort to workarounds to avoid iOS 14 anti-tracking feature

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privacy WWDC
Privacy is a big theme for Apple.
Photo: Apple

One of the big new features of iOS 14 is a privacy focused one that lets users know which apps are tracking them. But while it’s starting to roll out to beta users, developers are trying to find ways to continue tracking users without them necessarily being clued in.

According to a Wednesday report for the Financial Times, some devs are so concerned about the possible financial impact of Apple’s new feature that they will try and find ways around restrictions — even though being caught could result in them being booted off the App Store.

“One hundred percent, everyone will try doing [the technique of device fingerprinting], whether Apple enforces their rules or not,” one mobile games developer told the FT.

“It’s the biggest risk that we have [as a company],” said another. “[Apple’s feature could] really affect us negatively.”

Other ways to track users

Device fingerprinting is a way to recognize repeat visitors using the same device, even across multiple apps. It’s banned under App Store rules, but can tough to detect. Emails can also be used to track users. This is particularly true if users sign up to multiple services using the same email. The report notes that:

“‘Hashed emails’, whereby addresses are turned into a string of letters and numbers, allow companies to share user details without directly handing over an individual’s email address to their partners.”

Andrés Arrieta, director of consumer privacy engineering at Electronic Frontier Foundation, told the publication that it’s going to be impossible to stop all kinds of tracking. “We will still see apps trying to do nefarious things,” Arrieta said. “No matter what you do, you will have those bad actors.”

Facebook has already stuck its head above the parapet by blasting Apple’s new privacy measures. FB claims this will hurt small businesses by making it tougher for them to do targeted advertising. Not everyone has the power or resources of Facebook, of course. As a result, there’s a chance that many app makers will simply resort to under-the-radar workarounds.

Are you a cybersecurity expert? How difficult do you think it’s going to be for bad actors to get around Apple’s new privacy features? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Source: FT