Even if the user disables the tracking feature on an app, some apps will still spy on it. Several popular iOS apps have been examined in this regard, and the result is not very reassuring.
Lockdown has tested popular apps on iPhones running the two latest operating systems, iOS 14.8 and iOS 15. They analyzed what personal information is available from the apps. It’s reassuring that as part of a technical change introduced with iOS 14.5, apps can no longer access the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) – a random identifier that Apple assigns to devices to track and identify user activity within apps and between apps. However, there is other information that can be used to identify a phone.
For example, even though a popular iOS game called Subway Surfers is banned from tracking, the app sends detailed data about the iPhone to Zboga-owned game company Chartboost, including the user’s IP address, accessible storage space, current volume level (three decimal places). Even the battery charge level (to 15 decimal places). Two other popular iPhone games ( Run Rich 3D, Streamer Life!) revealed that he shared much-identifying information with advertising companies, even though the user had disabled tracking. Lockdown also found that two data trading companies, AppsFlyer and Kochava, have created settings that allow their customers to override user tracking settings.
It’s no coincidence that John Rock, a co-founder of Lockdown, a former iCloud engineer at Lockdown, puts it sharply in the case: “When it comes to shutting down third-party trackers, App Tracking Transparency is stupid. What’s worse if users are allowed to stop tracking, they will lock themselves into a false sense of security”.
Neither Lockdown nor the other privacy experts consulted by The Washington Post could say what happens to the data coming out of these apps, whether they were used to track users for targeted ads. Only application developers can explain what happens to the data.
Overall, that investigation found that iPhone’s tracking protection is nowhere near as reliable as Apple’s ads indicate. “If we find that a developer is ignoring a user’s choice, we’ll work with the developer to resolve the issue, but if that doesn’t work, we’ll remove the app in question from the App Store,” an Apple spokesman said. The Washington Post has shared the findings with Apple and was told to scan for the developers involved. A few weeks have passed since then, and everything has remained the same.