iPhone Users Tracked by Apple Again

For iPad or iPhone users who have updated their phone to iOS 6 (owners of the new iPhone 5 already have it), you might want to know that Apple is now keeping track of your search preferences so advertisers can target you.

I have to say, its pretty sneaky the way Apple has done it, too. To start with, there was no mention of it in the new features of iOS 6 but more importantly, the way to turn it off is well hidden (more about that further on).

Its pretty ingenious the way it works.

We’ve all seen the adverts that pop up on apps or websites that we go to whilst using our iDevices. What is happening here is that when you use an app or browse the web on your iPhone or iPad, the device automatically requests an advert from Apple’s ad server. These ads pretty much came up at random at whatever rate the advertisers were willing to pay for. Obviously advertisers had no way to know if their adverts were reaching their target audience or not and it was also pretty difficult for them to work out if the adverts converted to actual sales.

However, with iOS 6, when your device requests an ad, it also send along an IFA (Identifier for Advertisers) number that uniquely identifies your device. So, now the ad server knows that a specific device is requesting an ad whilst looking at a specific website or app. This is great for advertisers because if you are looking at, say, a website about dogs, an advertiser for dog food would be really excited about someone like you seeing their ad, so the more you look at sites about dogs, the more you will start seeing adverts related to dogs.

Also, if you make an online purchase related to the advert, then it is now possible for the advertiser to know that their advertising works.

Great news for the advertisers, but what does it mean for you?

At first blush, it does seem more palatable to have ads presented to you about subjects that you are actually interested. Will this just motivate you to spend more money on stuff that you didn’t really need (or want).  And surely that really is the purpose of advertising. After all, there’s not much that we buy that we had been totally unaware of until we saw an advert for it, so the main purpose of advertising is to nudge to you over that purchasing decision line or push you more in the direction of one brand instead of another.

How to turn it off.

As I mentioned before, its well hidden. Apple have chosen to put this switch in the “Advertising” page of the “About” section of the “General” page of Settings.

In every piece of software I’ve ever looked at, all you will ever find in an About section is static information about the product and occasionally diagnostic tools. Indeed if you look at the About section on iOS 6, you will find exactly the same information… with the exception of a switch to disable the ad tracking. Why would Apple put the switch there rather than a more logical and intuitive location such as the “Privacy” page of Settings? I wonder…

Anyway, as its probably not clear from my rant in the previous paragraph, to disable the ad tracking, do the following:

  1. Tap Settings
  2. Tap General
  3. Tap About
  4. Tap Advertising
  5. Set “Limit Ad Tracking” to ON (yes, it should be ON, not OFF).

Comments

  1. Martin Abreu says:

    This has solved one of my mysteries, thanks. Just stumbled on your web page and like it very much, since I live in Perth I will be in touch if I have any computer problems. cheers

  2. Thanks for the positive feedback, Martin. We look forward to helping you out with your computer if you have problems in the future.

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