This Mozilla iOS Ad Tracking Petition Doesn’t Make Sense (Update)

The Mozilla Foundation has a new petition. It calls on Apple to add a feature to iOS that rotates the tracking ID every month. But that’s not really needed.

[Mozilla Foundation Launch iPhone Privacy Petition]

Advertising Identifier

Here’s what the petition says:

There is a unique ID living on your iPhone right now that allows advertisers to track the ads you click on, the videos you play, and the apps you install.

The good news is, you can turn this identifier off. The bad news: most people don’t know that feature exists, let alone that they should turn it off. And we don’t think that they should have to.

That’s why we’re asking Apple to change the unique IDs that advertisers use to track us on each iPhone, every month. That means we could still get relevant ads – but there’s a real cap that makes it harder for companies to build profiles of us over time.

As I previously wrote, when you go to Settings > Privacy > Advertising > Limit Ad Tracking , and turn it on, your advertising identifier becomes a bunch of zeroes. Some people like to occasionally tap that Reset Advertising Identifier button underneath (I used to do it too). But if your ID is already a bunch of zeroes, resetting it won’t affect it. It will still be zeroes.

I don’t know if Limit Ad Tracking is on or off by default, but let’s assume it’s off, which will give you a unique ID. If you’d like to see ads that are a bit more personalized, then you should keep it off.

Which is why this idea of an ID that changes every month doesn’t make sense. If you want personalized ads, then an ID that changes every month won’t be useful to you. If you don’t want personalized ads, a rotating ID still won’t be useful to you since you can turn on Limit Ad Tracking. Adding an extra feature like what Mozilla wants seems redundant.


Let me clarify my idea a bit. It wouldn’t make sense to have both features in settings. When I first wrote this I was imagining two toggles: One to limit ad tracking and one to rotate the ID. That would be the redundant part.

But maybe it would make sense if Apple removed the reset button and just had the ID automatically reset itself once a month. People can already do this manually, because unlike what I was talking about above, if you don’t limit ads, your ID obviously wouldn’t be a bunch of zeroes. And resetting it in that state would get you a new ID. You would get personalized ads for a month.

So I was partially wrong on this, or at least I didn’t think of all the angles.

One thought on “This Mozilla iOS Ad Tracking Petition Doesn’t Make Sense (Update)

  • A strong disagree from me. First, the Advertising section/button is at the very bottom of the Privacy page – not so easy to find and quite unlikely someone would chance upon it. But most importantly, not every iPhone owner reads TMO or any other iPhone techno blog, site, etc.

    And Moz wasn’t the first to suggest this idea; I read something about this sometime last year, and although I don’t remember from whom, I don’t think it was Moz.

    AFAIK, Apple doesn’t see Moz as a competitor or enemy. The problem is, Apple is not a company that takes suggestions from… anyone. And although advertising IS part of the game, the average iPhone user has no idea this unique identifier advertising tracking stuff is going on – even if it is spelled out somewhere in the EULA (which I assume it is.)

    Redundancy? Perhaps, but not exactly. If one method I’d automatic and the other method is not, there goes your redundancy. Perhaps, if Apple did decide to implement something similar to Mozilla’s suggestion, the switch for Limit Ad Tracking would become unnecessary.

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