iPhone 5/iOS 6 can stop advertisers tracking you - If you can find the off switch

iPhone 5/iOS 6 can stop advertisers tracking you - If you can find the off switch

Summary: Hate the idea that advertisers can track iOS device usage and leverage this data to serve targeted ads? You can do something about it - but only if you can navigate complex maze that the iOS 6 Settings app has become and find the off switch.

TOPICS: iOS, Apple, iPhone, iPad

I have a love/hate relationship with Apple's iOS platform, and with each release iteration this delicate balance is subtly shifting more and more towards hate.

It's not that I don't like iOS itself -- I still believe that it is the best mobile platform available -- but I'm finding that as Apple adds more features to the OS, the Settings interface is getting more and more convoluted and crowded. I remember a time when it was easy to navigate to what you wanted, but now that iOS 6 is out, I'm feeling the need to don my Indiana Jones fedora, jacket, and bullwhip whenever I go exploring the interface.

Take the new ad tracking limiter introduced in iOS 6. This feature -- off by default -- is meant to prevent advertising networks from tracking iOS device usage and leveraging this data to serve targeted ads. Seems like a cool feature, and one that should be easily accessible, right?


Logically, I would have thought that this feature would be located in Settings > Privacy. The Privacy section is, after all, new too, so it seemed a sensible place to put it.


The next place I looked was Settings > General > Restrictions.

Again, outta luck.

Eventually I found this feature. It's buried in Settings > General > About > Advertising. And it's not easy to find either, because if you don't scroll down to the bottom of the About screen, you won't see it.

To switch this feature off, slide the switch to the 'on' position.

Once enabled, ad networks will not have access to the iDevice usage data or the unique advertising identifier, both of which could be used to track a user and serve targeted ads. Bear in mind though that Apple does not yet require that apps use the new advertising identifier, which means that some apps may well continue to serve targeted ads until Apple makes this requirement mandatory.

This tip applies to the iOS 6 running on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices.

Topics: iOS, Apple, iPhone, iPad

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  • Yay for me...

    I had found it before you did...turn it off by turning it on!!!
    I am guessing this only applies to free/ad driven apps...I do not have any free apps, I guess it would be ok then!!!, am I right?
    • But keep your data

      A recent article (need to go find it) showed that even with no track, the companies still collect and use your data for other things.

      No track does to mean No collect.

      So what does this really do for us?
  • Cook is no Jobs...

    "I have a love/hate relationship with Apple's iOS platform, and with each release iteration this delicate balance is subtly shifting more and more towards hate."

    You are not alone. I predict mediocrity for Apple, eventually. It may take a while, but they will get there - again.
  • So the actual setting to cut off advertisements

    Is under Settings > General > About > Advertising? You're chapped over the fact that is is not in the first 2 places you looked for it? Really? So does any other OS have this setting on a home screen? Or in the first level of seetings? No? Then what exactly is the issue here?
    • Nor did he mention it's Enabled by default

      So that in order to be tracked you have to turn it off. It's better than having you phone call "home" with your locations, even when you tell it not to. And by "home" I mean the software vendor, which means all of them, but specifically the one that claimed it was not doing it, while pointing the finger at others.
      Troll Hunter J
      • Apple? So what if Apple lied to their users

        So they claimed they weren't doing even though they where. It was a coding issue, which they fixed, so not really a lie.
        William Farrel
    • So you're saying that if everyone does it, it's okay?

      The issue is that it's buried, not that everyone is burying it. Noone should get a pass on this, least of all Apple, since they've styled themselves as a consumer-friendly business.
      • Seriously?

        Buried? Wow, you mean you have press a screen a whopping 4 times to get to this option and shut it off... come on, this is ridiculous and it's not even a real issue. THAT is the point I was making.

        Here's another question: Do ANY of the other smartphones or tablets have this option? My HTC TBolt does not nor does my Nook Color or my old Samsung Galaxy S. Why is that?
    • To be fair...

      To be fair I'd not have looked there either. This is one weird place for it to be. There isn't much in "About" that actually "settable", and to my mind this isn't a place I'd look to make settings changes. It does just feel; "weird".
    • Re: So does any other OS have this setting on a home screen?

      With the Chrome browser in Android, every time I open a new tab, I have the choice to make it an "incognito" tab that the server cannot track.
      • not exactly

        the incognito mode stops your browser from storing all kinds of stuff (browsing history, cookies, ...). But it doesn't stop any site from tracking you or saving all kinds of info on you.

        Basically, the feature exists so your children/wife/girlfriend can't see that you browsed for porn ;-)
  • Off/On

    The default is OFF, which means that, by default, the phone will NOT limit ad tracking. If you WANT to limit ad tracking, you turn the switch to ON. THis is because advertisers KNOW that most people who use computers and phones never bother to set ANYTHING unless they have to, and just run with defaults. IE was intending to ship their browser with ad tracking limited by default, so the advertisers refused to accept their flags.
    Now, the bottom line is that ONLY those advertisers who WANT to accept this 'do not track' flag with do so. THere is NO benefit to be derived from setting it to send the 'do not track' flag if the advertisers don't accept it, and there is no penalty that can be applied to them should they NOT accept it, and no way to know either way. Can you spell "U S E L E S S"?
  • Regardless of the default...

    I like the fact they included it in the OS at all. My preference would be that limiting tracking would be turned on by default, but it's a step in the right direction.
  • This will just confuse end users

    So to turn tracking OFF, I have to turn the setting ON?

    Consumers are going to be so confused by this. Talk about unintuitive. You can't make this stuff up.
    • Indeed

      But thus far YOU seem to be the only confused one here. Turn the setting ON to block ads, turn the setting OFF the allow ads. And which other mobile OS has this option?
      • Good, I'm going to save your response

        "thus far YOU seem to be the only confused one here"

        I can use this response the next time a Cupertino script reader claims to be confused by something in Windows.

    • It's not that hard

      The menu choice is called "Limit Ad Tracking." If Limit Ad Tracking is ON, I'm limiting ad tracking. If it's off, I'm not.
    • You mean...

      You mean "counter intuitive". Actually the wording seems very clear. I guess you could improve it with "Yes/No" (or even "Limit/Don't Limit"). But in truth, I don't think it'll confuse anyone.

      Of course, they've got to find it first.
    • Only if they have reading comprehension issues...

      The screen shot seems to be pretty obvious as to what you should set it to in order to limit ad tracking.

      If you get confused by that, I suspect you have larger issues to be concerned about.

    The privacy section would seem to be the logical and honest location for tracker setting.
    It strikes me as disingenuous to shift it in an unintuitive spot.
    My conclusion is that the tech savvy will find it no matter where and the non-savvy will not accidentally stumble over it and casually switch it off.
    Since 99% of Apple users are not tech-savvy, it was a pretty clever stroke to pull.