Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Plenty of Tracking Despite App Tracking Transparency

Dan Goodin:

Last week’s research paper said that while ATT in many ways works as intended, loopholes in the framework also provided the opportunity for companies, particularly large ones like Google and Facebook, to work around the protections and stockpile even more data. The paper also warned that despite Apple’s promise for more transparency, ATT might give many users a false sense of security.

“Overall, our observations suggest that, while Apple’s changes make tracking individual users more difficult, they motivate a counter-movement, and reinforce existing market power of gatekeeper companies with access to large troves of first-party data,” the researchers wrote. “Making the privacy properties of apps transparent through large-scale analysis remains a difficult target for independent researchers, and a key obstacle to meaningful, accountable and verifiable privacy protections.”

The researchers also identified nine iOS apps that used server-side code to generate a mutual user identifier that a subsidiary of the Chinese tech company Alibaba can use for cross-app tracking.


They noted that Apple also exempts tracking for purposes of “obtaining information on a consumer’s creditworthiness for the specific purpose of making a credit determination.”

Nick Heer:

If anything, Goodin underplays this rather scathing report (PDF), in which researchers describe finding minimal changes in app-based tracking after the implementation of App Tracking Transparency.


But ATT was not as aggressive an anti-tracking measure as Apple may have hoped for or portrayed in its advertising. While IDFA use dropped, other attributes about a user’s phone are collected more often. Plenty of apps and SDKs are still tracking users without their consent or knowledge — most often, sending data to Google and Facebook, but also Unity, Verizon, and Oracle.


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I’ve been using to block tracking and it works when you are cellular or WiFi.

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