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How to disable advertisers tracking in iOS 6


Apple released in September 2012 the new iOS 6 together with the iPhone 5.

We’ve seen quite a lot of advertisements about how good and great the iOS 6 is. No doubt, it is good, but not all new ”things” were advertised.

For example, Apple didn’t say a word about the new feature called Identifier For Advertisers (IFA or IDFA).

With this feature the company has silently started tracking users so that advertisers can target them again. This was the case in iOS 5 and Apple delivered later an update to iOS 5 to disable this functionality. It works like a browser cookie, so it is something randomly generated, which can uniquely identify the iPhone. When you browse the web for something, a call to a server is generated, but not only to the server hosting the website. The publisher’s site that you’re looking at passes the IFA to the ad server. The advertiser is then able to know that a specific iPhone user is looking at a specific website and can serve an ad targeting that user. IFA becomes particularly useful, for instance, if an ad server notices that a particular device is looking at a lot of different similar websites. The ad server will then deliver to that device ads related especially to that topic.

You can deactivate this tracking with a few simple steps:

Click on Settings -> General -> About -> (scroll down) -> Advertising -> Limit Ad Tracking.

If you click on “Learn More”, there is the following text displayed, explaining briefly what Ad Tracking.

The problem here is the fact that Apple doesn’t guarantee at the moment that if the user enabled the “Limit Ad Tracking” there will be no targeted ads delivered.

It appears as if Apple tried to hide this option so that the users don’t find it easily. Someone can wonder why has Ad Tracking been integrated in About where mostly hardware and carrier related information are displayed.

It is true that the information collected are anonymous, meaning that Apple and the advertisers can’t identify that a certain person is receiving a certain ad. However, I find strange that the feature is by delivered by default deactivated(so that you can be tracked) and that they didn’t mention anything about this feature anywhere.

Sorin Mustaca

Data Security Expert

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