iPhone app developers could by-pass new App Store tracking rules

Developers opposed to the Apple App Store’s anti-tracking changes, designed to protect users from being followed around the web, will explore the deployment of intrusive, under the table new methods, some mobile app makers have claimed.

Speaking to the Financial Times, several developers say they’re planning workarounds for the rules that require app makers to ask for users’ permission before they’re able to track them for targeted advertising.

Some say they plan to use “device fingerprinting” serendipitously to ensure they can continue to track iPhone and iPad users once the new rules come into effect. That’s despite the possibility of the apps being chucked off the App Store if those tactics are detected.

“100 per cent, everyone will try doing fingerprints, whether Apple enforces their rules or not,” one unnamed mobile games developer told the FT.

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Device fingerprinting can be used to recognise repeat visits from smartphone users via uniquely identifying elements of the hardware and software. Familiar Wi-Fi networks and other usage patterns could still be used to continue to track users, without their permission.

The report points out that hashed email addresses could be used to detect users because they’ll use their email addresses to sign up for multiple services. Either way, it’ll be tougher for Apple to identify these practices after taking a stand when it comes to user privacy, with the changes due to come into effect in early 2021.

Users will now see a pop up notification asking whether they wish to allow apps to track them across the web to deliver targeted advertising.

Apple’s Tim Cook says objectors like Facebook – perhaps the most vocal of all – still have the ability to track users, only now they have to ask permission before doing so. It seems that some developers have no intention of respecting that new relationship.

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