Apple reminded developers on Monday that new iOS, iPadOS and tvOS versions coming soon will block applications from tracking users without specific permission. It’ll no longer be possible for networks of apps to surreptitiously track what people use their devices for.
The same note includes a warning that its also is also forbidden to try to find a workaround for this block by “fingerprinting” devices.
App Tracking Transparency is right around the corner
One of the highlights of iOS 14.5, iPadOS 14.5 and tvOS 14.5 is App Tracking Transparency. ATT is a major privacy push by Apple intended to give users control over whether the software they use can track them.
For many years, each iPhone or other Apple device was assigned an Identifier for Advertisers. Applications could access the IDFA, and developers sharing that data with each other enabled them to create a profile of all the software that users had installed.
The next update for iPhone, iPad and Apple TV brings that to an end. ATT requires apps request to track the user. As Apple’s latest note to devs says, “Unless you receive permission from the user to enable tracking, the device’s advertising identifier value will be all zeros and you may not track them.”
And other forms of tracking have to be noted on the application’s App Store privacy declaration.
Apple CEO Tim Cook discussed App Tracking Transparency in an interview on Monday, and said that it’s just “several weeks“ away.
Some advertisers have looked for ways around the ATT. One of the possibilities is collecting as much data as possible on individual iPhones or iPads in hopes of creating a “fingerprint.” This might include the operating system version, language settings, time zone, etc. Apple’s note to developers on Monday reminds them that this is a violation of the Apple Developer Program License Agreement.
And the company is reportedly getting serious about it. Software is being rejected by the App Store on the grounds that it fingerprints devices, according to a report in Forbes.
But some of these might have been kicked out because of a problem with Adjust, which was accused of fingerprinting devices. Many apps use this system to measure users’ activities, but Adjust says they never intended to do fingerprinting. After a software update, Apple stopped blocking Adjust customers.