Apple’s iOS 6 probably didn’t need any more negative press. However, that’s exactly what it’s getting after new insight revealed that Apple’s latest update to its mobile operating system tracks basically everything users do over their iPhones and iPads.
According to MacWorld, iOS 6 monitors which websites users visit, which restaurants they check into, which apps they download, and what kind of gifts they buy online. It will even look at which TV shows you stream online, as well as your Facebook, Twitter, and other social media activity.
This tracking technology is nothing new for Apple. Apple came under fire in recent years for using a technology called Unique Device Identifiers (UDID) to track users and deliver advertisements to them. The problem wasn’t with Apple’s delivery of advertisements. Instead, it was with malicious app designers wanting to track users and steal their information – which is basically what happened.
The latest update to Apple’s iOS introduces a new ‘and improved’ advertisement tracking system to iPhone and iPad users. That stands for Identifier for Advertisers. And there is one good thing about the technology: it doesn’t personally identify you. However, it does collect information that is tied to each individual Apple device, and this information is then used to deliver advertisements that Apple thinks you’ll click on.
The more advertisements the users click on, the more money Apple makes. Although the company defends its actions by saying that it delivers a more “customized user experience”, that doesn’t make users any more comfortable with the fact that Apple knows what we’re looking for online.
Apple’s new IFA system is an improvement over the UDID system that left many user accounts exposed. However, it still tracks everything users do on their devices. From the terms you type into Maps to the questions you ask Siri, Apple and its advertising partners have access to some seriously detailed personal data.
Furthermore, Apple is not releasing exactly which type of user information is being collected. What we do know is that IFA gives Apple and its advertising partners the ability to track everything users do over any app from the moment they purchase it to the moment they delete it.
If having Apple look over your shoulder while you use your iPhone or iPad makes you uncomfortable, then you should be concerned with this blatant disregard for user privacy. Yes, Apple is a profit-generating company and not a charity, but in this issue, it’s clearly placing the needs of advertisers above the privacy concerns of its customers.
In typical Apple fashion, the company has made it unnecessarily difficult to disable ad tracking. Instead of placing ad tracking settings under the ‘Privacy’ menu, Apple has hidden it under: General > About > Advertising. To make things even more complicated, users have to flip the button to ‘On’ in order to disable ad tracking (the button is called “Limit Ad Tracking”).
Since this setting is naturally in an ‘Off’ state, most users think that they’re not being tracked. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.
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