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

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.

Top Rated Comments

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31 months ago

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!
Rating: 9 Votes
31 months ago

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
Rating: 9 Votes
31 months ago

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.
Rating: 7 Votes
31 months ago
I hope this doesn't mean lots privacy lawsuit articles on macrumors...

Apple, please get this right.
Rating: 6 Votes
31 months ago
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.
Rating: 6 Votes
31 months ago

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.
Rating: 6 Votes
31 months ago
I must be the only one who doesn't mind seeing targeted ads instead of irrelevant ones.
Rating: 4 Votes
31 months ago
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.
Rating: 3 Votes
31 months ago
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.
Rating: 2 Votes
31 months ago

But then some developers would argue that they need GPS coordinates and private info in order to improve their app based on usage and their users' demographics.
Which is fine if the users choose to opt in for giving away that info, and only if.


Apps already have to request user permission for location access. If this rumor is true, and it probably is, this is about making it easier for developers to provide a more consistent experience for users from device to device. Don't worry, Apple is not Google. The original inclusion of the UDID was just poor thinking on Apple's part, and now they're probably trying trying to find a solution that is a fair tradeoff for both users and developers.

Speaking as a developer, I'm all for an anonymized ID. I have no desire to track users, but I have a desire that users should never have to log in more than once to server-based apps. A persistent ID would facilitate this.
Rating: 2 Votes

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