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Privacy experiment found iPhone to send data to 5,400 hidden app trackers

By Kenny Yeo - on 29 May 2019, 12:26pm

Privacy experiment found iPhone to send data to 5,400 hidden app trackers

According to a privacy experiment conducted by The Washington Post, an iPhone was found to have sent data to over 5,400 app trackers over the period of one week.

This experiment was done with the help of Disconnect, a privacy firm that has developed an app called Privacy Pro that identifies and blocks trackers on the iPhone.

Together, they found that the app trackers were being sent information such as location data, phone numbers, IP addresses, emails and more.

An excerpt from the report:

On a recent Monday night, a dozen marketing companies, research firms and other personal data guzzlers got reports from my iPhone. At 11:43 p.m., a company called Amplitude learned my phone number, email and exact location. At 3:58 a.m., another called Appboy got a digital fingerprint of my phone. At 6:25 a.m., a tracker called Demdex received a way to identify my phone and sent back a list of other trackers to pair up with.

Apps that were found to do this include Microsoft OneDrive, Nike, Spotify, Yelp, The Weather Channel, and even The Washington Post's own app.

This report is especially alarming given that Apple touts its privacy features and talks a lot about how it takes your privacy seriously.

But it's worth mentioning that some app trackers are a necessary evil. They help developers understand users' usage patterns better which in turns helps them improves app. They can also combat fraud and improve advertising campaigns.

Moreoever, some apps won't function at all if they don't have your data. For example, ride-sharing and ride-hailing apps like Uber and Grab can't get you a car if they don't know your location.

Apple requires apps to have clear privacy policies and to ask users for permission before collecting their data, but app developers usually circumvent this by having vaguely worded policies.

If we concede that some form of data collection is necessary then the real question we should be asking is how is our data handled. How long are they stored? Are they anonymized? Who are they shared with?

Also, another question to consider is this: is the situation any better on an Android phone?

For users who concerned about this, one remedy is to disable Background App Refresh in Settings. This does not completely negate the trackers but it does restrict any effectiveness by preventing them from running the background.

Source: The Washington Post,       Macrumors

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