Despite Apple’s assurances that your iPhone‘s data is secure, the firm collects a great deal of personal information. The iPhone does feature a privacy option that should prevent such monitoring. It seems that Apple’s own description of how privacy protection works directly contradicts a new revelation by independent researchers that claims Apple obtains incredibly extensive information about you with its own apps even when you switch off tracking.
The Analytics option on the iPhone makes a bold claim. When you turn it off, Apple says it will “prevent the sharing of Device Analytics completely.” However, two app developers and security experts at software business Musk, Tommy Mysk and Talal Haj Bakry examined the information gathered from a variety of Apple iPhone apps, including the App Store, Apple Music, Apple TV, Books, and Stocks.
They discovered that turning off iPhone Analytics or adjusting any other privacy settings had no discernible influence on Apple’s data collecting. ‘The level of information is astounding for a business like Apple,’ Musk told Gizmodo. What you tap on, which apps you search for, which adverts you see, how long you look at a certain app, and how you found it all seems to be collected in real-time by the App Store.
The recent changes that Apple has made to App Store ads should raise many #privacy concerns. It seems that the #AppStore app on iOS 14.6 sends every tap you make in the app to Apple.👇This data is sent in one request: (data usage & personalized ads are off)#CyberSecurity pic.twitter.com/1pYqdagi4e
— Mysk 🇨🇦🇩🇪 (@mysk_co) November 3, 2022
The app also transmitted information about you and your devices, such as your unique identifiers, the type of phone you’re using, the screen resolution, the keyboard languages, and the internet connection type and settings. Opting out or disabling customizing settings did not lower the quantity of data the app was sending, Mysk claimed.
I disabled everything I could find, including individualized advertising and recommendations as well as data and analytics sharing. Despite several attempts to reach out for comment, Apple has remained silent. If the corporation releases any new details, we will incorporate them into the story. Gizmodo asked Mysk to compare his work to that of some other Apple apps.
According to the study’s authors, the Health and Wallet applications, for example, did not send any analytics data at all, regardless of whether the iPhone Analytics setting was turned on or off. The researchers observed that most of the apps that submitted analytics data had the same ID numbers, making it possible for Apple to monitor your behavior across all of Apple’s services.
According to Mysk’s investigation for Gizmodo, the Stocks app, for instance, transmitted Apple your list of watched equities, the names of stocks you saw or searched for, and time stamps for when you did it, as well as a record of any news stories you browsed in the app. That data transfer was independent of the data exchange required by iCloud to keep your data in sync across devices.
Stocks, in contrast to the other apps, transmitted unique identifiers and far fewer data about the user’s device. The study was double-checked by using two distinct devices. They began by employing an iOS 14.6 jailbroken iPhone to decrypt the traffic and inspect the information being transmitted. With the release of iOS 14.5 and the introduction of App Tracking Transparency,
Apple is giving consumers more control over which apps can access their data by asking them to “Ask app not to track?” The study was supported by the researchers’ inspection of an ordinary iPhone running iOS 16, the most recent version of Apple’s mobile operating system. However, on iOS 16, they observed the same apps transmitting comparable packets of data to the same Apple web addresses, thus they concluded that there was little reason to believe that the jailbroken phone would send different data.
In addition, toggling the various privacy options on and off did not affect the timing or conditions under which the data was delivered. The researchers were unable to decrypt the phone to see what information was transmitted, but the parallels suggest this is typical iPhone behavior. Some people find it annoying when you keep tabs on their behavior for any reason. However, this information can be delicate.
Tommy Mysk uploaded a video on Twitter showing the data gathered by the App Store, so you can get a firsthand look at it: It’s not like I already have ten apps following my every move, so adding one more won’t make a difference. Mysk claims that these results are inconsistent with accepted norms in the field. He and his study partner have previously compared statistics in Chrome and Edge.
According to Mysk, if you disable analytics in either of those apps, your data won’t be transmitted. Apple emphasizes security and privacy as selling points for its products. It sponsored 40-foot-tall billboards featuring an image of an iPhone with the simple phrase “Privacy. That’s iPhone.” in dozens of countries for several months.
However, the once-sacred Apple ecosystem is slowly becoming contaminated by many of the internet’s privacy vulnerabilities. Apple is making significant efforts to expand its advertising business. Apple’s ad network, like Google’s and Meta’s, collects and uses information about you, though it does so more discreetly.
Over time, Apple has settled on a definition of privacy that allows it to criticize competitors’ privacy practices while continuing to collect and use your data in much the same way. Apple insists that its practices do not constitute “tracking” in any way. Apple’s advertising platform doesn’t track you, as stated on the company’s website.
This means that Apple doesn’t combine user and device data gathered from our apps with the user and device data gathered from third parties for targeted advertising or advertising measurement purposes and that Apple doesn’t share user and device data with data brokers. Simply collecting data from a variety of sources is not tracking unless and until that data is linked across multiple services that are owned by different entities.
However, Mysk commented that he was awed by the attention to detail. I thought Apple, which claims to respect users’ right to privacy, would be collecting more broad-brush metrics, as Mysk put it. Except for the mounds of data your iPhone sends to Apple, everything that happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone.