So much for that “what happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone” advertising campaign from Apple. I cannot help but note the irony that, in reality, apps are monitoring your every move and grabbing data to help with advertising campaigns. Not that this should come as any great surprise; if you aren’t paying for an app then you are the product. However, the sheer number of apps involved, the number of trackers used per app and both the volume and frequency of the data collection is cause for concern.
What is going on?
When the Wall Street Journal investigated the world of iPhone privacy controls it discovered that, frankly, those controls are about as much use as a chocolate teapot. The WSJ reporters looked at some 80 iOS apps, all recommended in the App Store as being “Apps We Love.” What they found was all bar one were using third-party trackers to collect data about the user. Most were using more than one tracker, the average being four per app.
What data is being collected?
What data is being collected by iOS apps? Would it surprise you to discover that as well as details of your device such as the model, name and phone number these trackers can grab your email address, the IP address that is allocated to your internet connection and even your precise location at any given time? Everything from music streaming and weather apps, through to news and storage apps are doing it. Maybe Apple should change the advertising slogan to “invading your privacy—there’s an app for that.”
Of course, it isn’t just iOS apps that do this. Android apps are just as bad. However, that doesn’t mean that Apple gets a free ride. Especially in light of that “what happens on your iPhone…” campaign. Rumors are rife that Apple CEO, Tim Cook, will try and dampen the flames with an announcement tomorrow (June 3) regarding limiting these trackers when it comes to apps in the App Store “Kids” section. More than one information security and privacy expert have already told me, in off the record conversations, that they think this is unlikely to be workable.