The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple will soon release a new tracking tool for its apps as it seeks to balance user privacy with app developers’ demands for consumer data:
The new tool, which could be detailed in the coming weeks, aims to better protect user privacy than existing approaches, [according to people briefed on Apple’s plans.]
It comes after Apple last summer rattled the mobile industry by saying it would stop allowing app makers to use a unique identifier embedded in iPhones and iPads to track users across different apps. So far, the company hasn’t aggressively enforced that policy.
Many mobile companies rely on what is called the Unique Device Identifier, or UDID, to serve ads and gather data—like location and preferences—as people move between apps. But some privacy advocates argued that the string of numbers, which are anonymous, could be coupled with enough data to identify individuals.
How Apple’s new technology works and what it will allow developers to track remains unclear. One of the people briefed said that the new anonymous identifier is likely to rely on a sequence of numbers that isn’t tied to a specific device. […]
Meanwhile, developers and mobile ad networks have been evaluating various workarounds, worried about losing millions of dollars in revenue if they can’t target users with mobile ads. Companies also say they need a way to recognize users in order to customize content and preferences. None of the new workarounds, which include methods like tracking based on an ID in a phone’s wireless networking hardware, have taken off.