Apple to Launch New App Usage Tracking Tools for Developers to Balance User Privacy

MacRumors

macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
47,550
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Last year, Apple announced that it was phasing out developer access to UDIDs, the unique iOS device identifiers that allowed developers and advertisers to not only track usage of their own content, but also in some cases track users' movements across apps and browsing sessions. The company earlier this year began rejecting apps that continued to use the UDID rather than implementing unique identifiers that would enhance privacy by remaining unique to the developer's app.




The Wall Street Journal now reports that Apple is preparing to release new tools to assist developers with tracking usage of their apps without using the UDID, maintaining user privacy while still making it easy for developers to gather usage data on their apps.
Apple Inc. is planning to release a new way for mobile app developers to track who uses their software, according to people briefed on Apple's plans, the company's latest attempt to balance developers' appetite for targeting data with consumers' unease over how it is used.

The new tool, which could be detailed in the coming weeks, aims to better protect user privacy than existing approaches, these people said.
The report notes that Apple has been inconsistent about blocking apps that use the UDID for tracking purposes and that the new tools will provide developers with ways to collect important data anonymously without being linked to the UDID that when combined with data from other apps could be used to identify the specific user of a given device.

No other details on the tools have yet been revealed, but the company could share more information at next week's Worldwide Developers Conference.

Article Link: Apple to Launch New App Usage Tracking Tools for Developers to Balance User Privacy
 

charlieegan3

macrumors 68020
Feb 16, 2012
2,395
14
U.K
I hope this doesn't mean lots privacy lawsuit articles on macrumors...

Apple, please get this right.
 

Dr McKay

macrumors 68040
Aug 11, 2010
3,422
45
Kirkland
Advertisers are already kicking up a stink because IE10 will have "Do not Track" enabled by default in the settings, claiming it'll hurt them because they can't track users and deliver targeted ads.
 

Shrink

macrumors G3
Feb 26, 2011
8,931
1,604
New England, USA
Seems to be a decent balance that will shut up the paranoid people in BOTH camps (consumers AND devs) who keep thinking the sky is falling. :cool:
If I am reading your post correctly, I would not agree that the desire to retain what remnants of privacy that remains constitutes paranoia.

I realize that I sacrifice privacy every time I go online or use certain apps, but anything that attempts to preserve some vestige of that privacy gets my vote.

It ain't paranoid if people are watching you...:D
 

RalfTheDog

macrumors 65816
Feb 23, 2010
1,447
122
Lagrange Point
I understand, advertisers are asking to have IOS users and potential IOS users shot with a trank gun, taken to a secure location, then users and potential users are to have GPS/RF tracking devices implanted.

Local vets and wildlife centers are competing to see who gets the contract.
 

LaWally

macrumors 6502a
Feb 24, 2012
530
0
Something that will "better protect user privacy than existing approaches" should come with an on/off switch controllable by the user. No developer has any right to know how I am using their app, as much as they might like to know.
 

Kaibelf

Suspended
Apr 29, 2009
2,445
7,437
Silicon Valley, CA
If I am reading your post correctly, I would not agree that the desire to retain what remnants of privacy that remains constitutes paranoia.

I realize that I sacrifice privacy every time I go online or use certain apps, but anything that attempts to preserve some vestige of that privacy gets my vote.

It ain't paranoid if people are watching you...:D
I'm talking about the people who say "oh my god there was a ping file on my phone - Apple's going to steal my baby in the night! :eek:"
 

nagromme

macrumors G5
May 2, 2002
12,546
1,195
Advertisers are already kicking up a stink because IE10 will have "Do not Track" enabled by default in the settings, claiming it'll hurt them because they can't track users and deliver targeted ads.
Well, they’re right: it will hurt them.

A little.

And I just can’t feel any sympathy. I am not for sale unless I choose to be!
 

Yvan256

macrumors 603
Jul 5, 2004
5,040
908
Canada
Something that will "better protect user privacy than existing approaches" should come with an on/off switch controllable by the user. No developer has any right to know how I am using their app, as much as they might like to know.
As a developer I would like to know if a specific device is using my App, where he lives (only the country/state/province/etc, no need for GPS coordinates), maybe local time, etc.

It's not about tracking you, it's about getting statistics about who's using the App.

Here's an example: Imagine I make an App and that I find out 90% of my users are in Canada, I might want to add more Canada-specific features to it.

And if I then find out that in those 90% of users, 70% are in Québec, I would make sure my App is 100% bilingual.

And then I find out that 85% of those users are girls/women, I might fill re-skin the interface to pink colors and add ponies. Just kidding.

But you see how that might be useful to developers. I'm guessing the "unique ID" will be unique for at least each device+app. Maybe even device+app+installation. Delete the app, re-install it and you might even get a new ID.
 

akac

macrumors 6502
Aug 17, 2003
470
64
Colorado
Something that will "better protect user privacy than existing approaches" should come with an on/off switch controllable by the user. No developer has any right to know how I am using their app, as much as they might like to know.
They can do that now. UIDs have nothing to do with how you're using an app. What it does do is allow a company to pinpoint multiple apps on one device. UDIDs were supposed to change when you restored a phone or other type of behavior - but they stopped doing that after iOS 2 I believe.

There is a lot of misunderstanding what a UDID is. Its just a generated ID that is device - not app - specific. Any app can create a ID that is app specific. Any app can even share that ID across multiple apps very easily (OpenUDID). Not unless you ever transmit your name and stuff alongside the UDID can they associate you as a person to an ID. 99% of the usage of UDIDs were completely anonymous. Its that 1% that was bad.

But even OpenUDID (which Apple can't stop because its not using a device ID) can do nearly everything a UDID can - including that 1% of bad behavior.

The only way Apple can make it more private is if they re-introduce a UDID - but allow the user to make it return garbage or some nil value AND developers use that exclusively. Otherwise I, as a developer, could hypothetically use this new UDID, but if it returns nil I use OpenUDID. Of course if it returns some random number then I won't actually ever know either, so that's one thing Apple could do.
 

shurcooL

macrumors 6502a
Jan 24, 2011
921
70
I must be the only one who doesn't mind seeing targeted ads instead of irrelevant ones.
 

Mak47

macrumors 6502a
Mar 27, 2011
751
32
Harrisburg, PA
Advertisers are already kicking up a stink because IE10 will have "Do not Track" enabled by default in the settings, claiming it'll hurt them because they can't track users and deliver targeted ads.
Companies that rely heavily on targeted ads are in big trouble if all the "Do not track" options actually work and are easy to use. Companies like Google and Facebook rely heavily on targeted ads because they're the only ones that have any potential to be effective.

Advertisers won't spend money on generic web ads, they already know they don't work. If they don't spend money, the Googles and Facebooks of the world don't turn a profit.
 

LaWally

macrumors 6502a
Feb 24, 2012
530
0
As a developer I would like to know if a specific device is using my App, where he lives (only the country/state/province/etc, no need for GPS coordinates), maybe local time, etc.

It's not about tracking you, it's about getting statistics about who's using the App.

Here's an example: Imagine I make an App and that I find out 90% of my users are in Canada, I might want to add more Canada-specific features to it.

And if I then find out that in those 90% of users, 70% are in Québec, I would make sure my App is 100% bilingual.

And then I find out that 85% of those users are girls/women, I might fill re-skin the interface to pink colors and add ponies. Just kidding.

But you see how that might be useful to developers. I'm guessing the "unique ID" will be unique for at least each device+app. Maybe even device+app+installation. Delete the app, re-install it and you might even get a new ID.
Of course I can see how it would useful to developers. That is not the point. The point is I should not have to be a "target" of your statistical gathering just because I buy your app. If users of your app want to opt-in that's fine by me. I just want to have a way to opt-out.
 

moabal

macrumors 6502
Jun 22, 2010
278
668
This is just for third party apps right? The UDID will still exist so I can register my device's UDIDs for iOS 6 Beta. Can someone confirm this?
 

Illusion986

macrumors 6502
Mar 12, 2009
354
3
I do not want to be tracked but at the same time this seems to be a necessary feature as developers can target app features and ads toward people using them in a more specific area/country or what ever and sell more apps and/or make more money of adds. Because if devs didn't make money i don't think we would see that many apps simple as that.
 

nutjob

macrumors 6502a
Feb 7, 2010
980
458
Being tracked by Apple is so cool! Hope they don't me charge extra for it.
 

Consultant

macrumors G5
Jun 27, 2007
13,293
15
Something that will "better protect user privacy than existing approaches" should come with an on/off switch controllable by the user. No developer has any right to know how I am using their app, as much as they might like to know.
Paranoid much? An ID does NOT show "how I am using their app".
 

rmwebs

macrumors 68040
Apr 6, 2007
3,140
0
Glad this is being done, there really was no other option. Some apps need a way of recognising the user, for things like remotely saved data. By having this, apps dont need to make you register for a username/password and can just instantly pick up that its device XYZ.

The problem with the old method of the device id was that if you sold your iPhone/iPad/iPod, the new owner inherits that device id, so its no longer unique to you. Hopefully this new method solves that sufficiently.
 

Exotic-Car Man

macrumors regular
Oct 29, 2010
138
0
USA
The company earlier this year began rejecting apps that continued to use the UDID rather than implementing unique identifiers that would enhance privacy by remaining unique to the developer's app.
Does this mean that apps that used their own type of UDID are safe? I don't recall this detail; I thought all apps that used UDIDs were being blocked. For instance, if an online app scrambled a UDID when a user went online, would that app be accepted?
 
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