iOS 14’s App Tracking Transparency lets you disable app tracking, but these apps do it anyway (via WP).

Tracking Apps Tracking You

An investigation revealed that one app, Subway Surfers, sent an ad company called ChartBoost 29 data points about your iPhone. This includes IP address, how much free storage you have, your current volume level, your current battery level, and more. And this was after ATT was turned off.

The team behind the Lockdown Privacy app used it to snoop on app’s network activity:

We found that App Tracking Transparency made no difference in the total number of active third-party trackers, and had a minimal impact on the total number of third-party tracking connection attempts. We further confirmed that detailed personal or device data was being sent to trackers in almost all cases. ATT was functionally useless in stopping third-party tracking, even when users explicitly choose “Ask App Not To Track”.

Other naughty apps included Yelp, Telegram, Grubhub, Run Rich 3D, Starbucks, Streamer Life!, Cash App, DoorDash, and PeacockTV. The team says that Apple has a narrow definition of what constitutes “tracking,” and so these apps are able to use this as a loophole. There are likely more apps that do the same; the researchers only looked at some of the top popular apps.

“It turns out that Apple interpretation of “tracking” is that it must fulfill all of these conditions: First, it must link user data from one app/website to another app/website. Second, it must do this specifically for targeted advertising or advertising measurement purposes. Third, Apple excludes a list of so-called acceptable tracking behaviors that are not considered “tracking”.”

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W. Abdullah Brooks, MD

Andrew:

This emphatically illustrates why we need third party stakeholders as part of an effective and robust monitoring and evaluation system. Apple must conduct their own, however third parties remain essential to objective and disinterested assessment. 

Now, it’s up to both Apple and the user community to respond to these findings.