How to hide your iPhone’s unique address from third party apps?
Is your iPhone having difficulty keeping secrets? Luckily, there is something you can do about it.
What you browse on the internet, what apps you download, and even, your live location are all data points that can be associated with an iPhone’s presumed advertising identifier (Android phones have a related advertising ID). Integrated with commercially accessible databases, this unique alphanumeric string can be enough for third parties to wire an iPhone’s actions back to the real name of its owner.
We were reminded of the real-world outcomes, when the New York Times published an article, uncovering the movements of the people involved in the U.S. Capitol Riot. The newspaper acquired a dataset that associated phone location data to advertising identifiers, which, combined with other databases, allowed the paper to link that location information to real people.
Supposing they are playing by Apple’s rules, app developers get access to a phone’s advertising identifier by simply requesting it from the phone. Think of an ad identifier like the commoner web cookie which follows you around the internet, remembering what you do and exchanging information with websites en voyage. Your phone has something like a cookie, too – the ad identifier.
While you may not have much condolence for those described in the Times article, who may have taken part in the attack on the Capitol. Still, the point remains… your phone’s ad identifier is yet another digital breadcrumb leading straight back to you.
If you want privacy than this should concern you. Many of the apps that have access to your ad identifier are tracking your location. While the apps may promise to store this data anonymously, linked only to your ad identifier, the Times article is an example of just how easy it is to tie those identifiers and all the data associated with them back to the real names.
“Several companies offer tools to allow anyone with data to match the IDs with other databases and those databases might contain your real name and address.” The paper explained.
But there is a way to fight back.
Apple offers its users the option, buried deep inside the iPhone’s settings, to deny apps access to your ad identifier. Turning off app’s access to location data is also an important step, but there are other ways for apps to estimate your phone’s location – like connections to WIFI networks. You should also not give apps access to your location data unless they absolutely need it to function, for example, a map app.
To deny apps access to your phone’s ad identifier:
- Go to
- Disable the option that says Allow apps to Request to Track.
That’s it. Wasn’t that easy? 😊