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Post: Apple toughens up app security with API control



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Apple is at war with device fingerprinting — the use of fragments of unique device-specific information to track users online. This fall, it will put in place yet another important limitation to prevent unauthorized use of this kind of tech.

Apple at WWDC 2023 announced a new initiative designed to make apps that do track users more obvious while giving users additional transparency into such use. Now it has told developers a little more about how this will work in practice.

The latest salvo in a long campaign

Eagle-eyed watchers will know this is a continuation of a war against tracking Apple launched when it limited website access to Safari browser data in 2018, and then again with iOS 14.5 in 2021, when it required developers get users’ express permission to track them. This has been a successful move and at present just 4% of iPhone users in the US permit apps to track them this way.

That statistic alone should convince any skeptics that Apple’s customers really want protection of this kind.

Taking on the fingerprinters

The new move takes aim at another set of tools used to track users, so-called fingerprinting. In brief, every device shares certain unique information that can be used to identify it. Such information might be screen resolution, model, even the number of installed apps. That data can be used to identify a device and track its journey between apps and websites. Of course, devices don’t move alone, so this same data can also be used to track users, and Apple absolutely rejects that.

Some APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) Apple and third parties provide to developers to enable certain features in their apps also provide information that can be abused for device fingerprinting.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

Lora Helmin

Lora Helmin

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