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.

Tag: wsj.com

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
109 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!
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
109 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
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
109 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.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
109 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.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
109 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.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
109 months ago
I hope this doesn't mean lots privacy lawsuit articles on macrumors...

Apple, please get this right.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

iPhone 12 Pro in Graphite and iPhone 12 in Blue Shown Off in Unboxing Videos

Monday October 19, 2020 8:20 am PDT by
While the iPhone 12 Pro does not launch until Friday, we now have an early unboxing video of the device courtesy of Twitter account DuanRui, providing a closer look at the shiny new flat-edge design and sleek Graphite color option. Ben Geskin re-uploaded the unboxing video to YouTube, which we've embedded below: Geskin has also uploaded an unboxing video of the iPhone 12 in Blue: ...

New Photos Offer Better Look at iPhone 12 Color Options

Tuesday October 20, 2020 2:34 am PDT by
As we wait for the iPhone 12 review embargo to lift later today, more pictures are circulating of the devices in real-world lighting conditions, providing a better look at the different colors available. Leaker DuanRui has shared images on Twitter of the iPhone 12 in white, black, blue, green, and (PRODUCT)RED. The black and white colors are similar to the iPhone 11 colors, but the other...

Kuo: iPhone 12 Pro Demand Higher Than Expected

Sunday October 18, 2020 10:39 pm PDT by
TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo released a research note this morning detailing what he's seen with the volume of iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro pre-orders in the first weekend of sales. Kuo had previously indicated that Apple's estimated shipment allocations for the new iPhone models placed the iPhone 12 at the top with 40-45% of inventory allocation (up from 15-20%). However, ...

Apple Releases iPadOS and iOS 14.1 With Multiple Bug Fixes Ahead of iPhone 12 Launch

Tuesday October 20, 2020 10:06 am PDT by
Apple today released iOS and iPadOS 14.1, the first major updates to the iOS and iPadOS 14 operating system updates that were released in September. iOS and iPadOS 14.1 come a week after Apple released the golden master versions of the updates to developers. The iOS 14.1 update can be downloaded for free and it is available on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To access...

Hands-On With Apple's MagSafe Charger for iPhone 12

Monday October 19, 2020 11:54 am PDT by
Alongside the new iPhone 12 models, Apple introduced a MagSafe charger that attaches to the back of the iPhones using magnets embedded both in the charger and in the iPhone. It allows for speedier charging and paves the way for a portless iPhone in the future. MagSafe chargers are shipping out and are in some Apple retail locations now, and we picked one up to check it out. Subscribe to the ...

Watch: iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro Unboxing Videos and First Impressions

Tuesday October 20, 2020 6:05 am PDT by
Apple's embargo has lifted for iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro reviews. In addition to our detailed review roundups for each device, we've rounded up over a dozen unboxing videos and first impressions below. iPhone 12 in Blue on left and iPhone 12 Pro in Pacific Blue on right via Engadget Key new features of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro include a flat-edge design, 5G support, a much faster A14 ...

Some Apple Watch SE Owners Experiencing Issues With Overheating [Updated]

Monday October 19, 2020 11:38 am PDT by
There may be an issue with the new Apple Watch SE, which some users have found is overheating after a few hours of usage. Several Apple Watch SE owners in South Korea have run into problems, as noted in a Reddit post chronicling the complaints. There have been six reports from Apple Watch SE owners in South Korea who have had their Apple Watches get hot and malfunction, with a yellow spot...

Gold Version of iPhone 12 Pro Apparently Has a More Fingerprint Resistant Stainless Steel Frame

Tuesday October 20, 2020 11:56 am PDT by
iPhone 12 Pro reviews hit the web today, and one of the more interesting tidbits came from TechCrunch's Matthew Panzarino, who revealed that the Gold version of the device apparently has a more fingerprint resistant coating applied to the stainless steel frame. From his review:Most of the iPhone 12 Pro finishes still use a physical vapor deposition process for edge coating. But the new gold...

iPhone 12 Pro Max Has Smaller 3,687 mAh Battery According to Regulatory Filing

Tuesday October 20, 2020 8:48 pm PDT by
Apple's new iPhone 12 Pro Max is equipped with a 3,687 mAh battery, which is around 7% less capacity than the 3,969 mAh battery in the iPhone 11 Pro Max, according to a regulatory filing published by TENAA, the Chinese equivalent of the FCC. The regulatory filing, spotted by MacRumors, also lists the iPhone 12 Pro Max with 6GB of RAM as seen in benchmark results last week. Apple has filed ...

Hands-On With Apple's iPhone 12 and 12 Pro MagSafe Cases

Tuesday October 20, 2020 1:33 pm PDT by
Apple's iPhone 12 and 12 Pro are launching this Friday, and ahead of that release date, Apple is shipping out various accessories like the MagSafe charger and MagSafe cases. Yesterday we took a look at the MagSafe charger, and today our MagSafe case came in the mail, so we thought we'd take another look at the charger to see how it works with the case and just how strong the case magnets are. S ...