One of iOS 14’s most significant features was App Tracking Transparency which forces apps to ask users permission to whether or not they want their data to be collected by third-party developers. According to a new report, some popular iPhone apps are ignoring Apple’s anti-tracking rules, even if users refuse permission for app tracking.
Apple’s App Tracking Transparency rules are being circumvented by some iPhone apps
The Washington Post recently conducted an investigation with Lockdown, an app developer focused on privacy. As per the results of the investigation, at least three iPhone games are sending explicit user data to third-party advertising companies, even after users did now allow for their information to be collected. The Cupertino tech giant has done nothing about these apps, despite being aware of them.
Selecting the “Ask app not to track” option does block that app’s access to a user’s IDFA (ID For Advertisers) number, which is used to identify an iPhone. However, apart from that one number, the app can still collect most of your data. The investigation revealed that Subway Surfers, a popular iPhone game, was sending 29 data points about a user’s phone to an ad company called Chartboost. The information includes a user’s IP address, remaining free storage, battery level, screen resolution, and more.
But something curious happens after you ask not to be tracked, according to an investigation by researchers at privacy software maker Lockdown and The Washington Post. Subway Surfers starts sending an outside ad company called Chartboost 29 very specific data points about your iPhone, including your Internet address, your free storage, your current volume level (to 3 decimal points) and even your battery level (to 15 decimal points). It’s the kind of unique data that could be used by advertisers to identify your iPhone, possibly letting them know what other apps you use or how to target you
The developers of some apps Lockdown found ignoring the App Tracking Transparency rules did not respond to requests for comments. However, the marker of Subway Surfers, Sybo, claimed all that data is sent “in order for the game to function properly.”
The Cupertino tech giant has said that any apps attempting to bypass iOS’s privacy features will be banned. However, it seems that the company must be more alert in catching those violations. “When it comes to stopping third-party trackers, App Tracking Transparency is a dud,” said Lockdown co-founder Johnny Lin. “Worse, giving users the option to tap an ‘Ask App Not To Track’ button may even give users a false sense of privacy.”
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