Ad networks thumb nose at iPhone privacy settings

Apple's tightened iPhone and iPad security meant advertisers had to seek alternative ways of targeting users with in-app ads. In a cat-and-mouse game, advertisers are succeeding.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor on

Mobile advertising networks are using new methods to target iPhone and iPad users by 'bypassing' Apple's earlier efforts to prevent user tracking, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Apple has begun to bar app makers from using users' unique device identifiers, or UDIDs, to track them. The technology giant then rejected applications from the App Store that attempted --- and successfully --- to access the data. Advertisers complained because it enables them to target their ads more effectively.

Then they sought alternative methods. It looks like they succeeded.

According to the report, one alternative is the iPhone's unique wireless networking code --- the Open Device Identification Number, or ODIN. Another method, OpenUDID, is also being used to collect information on users as they move across applications.

In a cat-and-mouse game, Apple keeps patching the cracks as and when they appear. But advertisers keep finding 'workarounds'.

Apple did not respond for comment at the time of writing.

It falls down to one simple thing: advertisers need user data to work out what customers want to see --- though, that itself is questionable --- and deliver seemingly the most relevant ads. Though not all users will tap the ads, a good proportion will. Each time an ad is tapped, revenue is generated for the advertiser and their client.

Advertisers are arguing they will lose "millions of dollars a week in revenue" unless they acquire the data they need. But this at the expense of effectively sneaking around Apple's own software? No, thanks. In respect to user privacy, any average Joe or Jane in the street will tell you that sounds sketchy at the very least.

Advertisers are desperate to keep the attention of its clientele --- an odd but fitting word for users who would likely rather never be on the viewing end of another advert in their lives. In doing so, their attempts to bypass the security and privacy settings in iOS are being patched by Apple each time a crack in the wall appears.

Image credit: CNET.


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