Even if a user turns off an app’s tracking feature, it may still be spied on by other apps. Several popular iOS apps have been investigated, with unsettling results.
According to a study by Lockdown researchers in San Francisco, who manufacture privacy software, and The Washington Post, it all seems nice, but the reality can be quite different.
On iPhones running the two most recent operating systems, iOS 14.8 and iOS 15, Lockdown evaluated popular apps. They looked at what personal data is available through the apps. Apps can no longer use the Identification for Advertisers (IDFA), a random identifier that Apple distributes to devices to track and identify user activity within and between apps, as part of a technological change made with iOS 14.5. On the other hand, other information can identify a phone.
Even though tracking is prohibited in Subway Surfers, the software sends extensive information about the iPhone to Zboga-owned gaming business Chartboost, including the user’s IP address, available storage space, and current volume level (three decimal places).
Even the charge level of the battery (to 15 decimal places). Even though the user had blocked tracking, he supplied much-identifying information to advertising companies in two other popular iPhone applications (Run Rich 3D, Streamer Life!). AppsFlyer and Kochava, two data trading companies, have established options that allow their customers to override user tracking settings, according to Lockdown.
It’s no accident that John Rock, a Lockdown co-founder, and former iCloud engineer, states it so succinctly in the case: “App Tracking Transparency is foolish when it comes to shutting down third-party trackers. Worse yet, allowing users to turn off tracking may lull them into a false feeling of security “.
Neither Lockdown nor the other privacy experts interviewed by The Washington Post could say what happens to the data collected by these apps or whether it was used to track users for targeted advertising. Only the developers of the applications can explain what happens to the data.
The author of Run Rich 3D refused to comment on the matter, while Streamer Life! and its developer stated that they followed Apple’s privacy policies. Chartboost merely indicated that it is “dedicated to respecting end-user privacy while providing the greatest possible experience for publishers to sustain their ad income.”
Overall, the analysis discovered that the iPhone’s tracking protection is far from as reliable as Apple’s advertisements suggest. “If we discover that a developer is disregarding a user’s preference, we’ll work with the developer to remedy the issue. If that doesn’t work, we’ll remove the program from the App Store,” an Apple spokesman said.
Apple has been informed of the findings, and the Washington Post has been instructed to search for the developers responsible. Since then, a few weeks have gone by, and everything has remained the same.