Apple Closes Another Mobile Tracking Loophole With iOS 7

AppleWhile it was not mentioned at Apple’s WWDC keynote address earlier this week, the newest version of iOS includes a new privacy feature that pushes more advertisers into adopting its latest user tracking system.

After Apple announced nearly two years ago that it was shutting down access to the unique device identifier (UDID), which many app developers commonly used to track installs, usage rates and other metrics, many developers switched to using the devices’ media access control (MAC) address instead.

Even after Apple replaced the UDID with the Identifier For Advertising (IDFA) in May’s iOS 6, some developers and advertisers had yet to move away from the MAC address. Now Apple is putting more pressure on stragglers to make the switch. According to the iOS 7 pre-release notes, Apple has eliminated access to the MAC address as well:

“In iOS 7 and later, if you ask for the MAC address of an iOS device, the system returns the value 02:00:00:00:00:00. If you need to identify the device, use the identifierForVendor property of UIDevice instead. Apps that need an identifier for their own advertising purposes should consider using the advertisingIdentifier property of ASIdentifierManager instead.”

Apple is “essentially saying that you need to adopt IDFA for device identification,” noted Ryan Weber, co-founder and VP of product at NativeX, a company that works with developers and publishers to create native ads for apps. Even with ample warning from Apple that it was removing access to the UDID, some advertisers were “slow to respond,” Weber said.  “In April, we saw 28% of publishers’ ad revenue on iOS was still coming from advertisers that supported the UDID for device identifier tracking, and by May [after Apple launched the new IDFA] that number dropped to 10%, but that remaining 10% needs to make the change.”

A smart move would be to support various types of tracking technologies, added Craig Palli, VP of business development at Fiksu, a mobile app marketing platform.

“As the choices for tracking technologies continue to evolve,” Palli said, “mobile app advertisers need to support multiple types of marketing attribution including the IDFA, digital fingerprinting and HTML5 rather than backing just one horse.”

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