iPhone privacy option button aksing users that apps not to track you is ‘False sense of privacy,’ says former Apple Engineer

What you do on your iPhone, really stay on your iPhone?

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Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Jhonny Lin, former Apple engineer and the co-founder of the software company Lockdown Privacy recently challenged iPhone privacy and said Apple’s “Ask App Not To Track” button is a “dud” that gives users “a false sense of privacy,” says Washington Post.

Apple always showcases iPhone as the most privacy-centric phone on the planet Earth; iPhoneiphone's app traking allow or block option users think so too. In April, Apple rolled out an update that asks users to allow or block any app from collecting their data. But, “A new study found popular iPhone apps are still collecting user data — even if they’re asked not to.” Lin argues this update is a “dub” and Apple claims to “What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone,” is not the case. 

Even users have not allowed an app to collect the data, some popular iOS apps like “Subway Surfers” can still snoop and collect personal data, says a new study by Lockdown Privacy.

In our tests of ten top-ranked apps, we found no meaningful difference in third-party tracking activity when choosing App Tracking Transparency’s “Ask App Not To Track”. The number of active third-party trackers was identical regardless of a user’s ATT choice, and the number tracking attempts was only slightly (~13%) lower when the user chose “Ask App Not To Track”.

How do these results compare to Apple’s App Tracking Transparency claims? In our earlier section, we observed that the average iOS user will see ATT’s claims that “all new app tracking requests are automatically denied” and that a user can ask the app to not track their “activity across other companies’ apps and websites.”

Neither of Apple’s claims about App Tracking Transparency hold up. New app tracking requests were not automatically denied, and even though it is technically correct that the user can ask apps to not track their activity across other companies’ apps and websites, in our tests, in no case did apps respect this request. And since every connection exposes the user’s IP address, it’s trivial for these third parties to uniquely identify users, rendering ATT useless.

In many cases, trackers received much more than the user’s IP address. We observed that they received an egregious amount of data, including a user’s accessibility settings, the exact time that the user last restarted the device (down to the second), the device’s current battery level and screen brightness (both with a precision of 15 decimals), the user’s exact latitude and longitude, installed keyboards, time zone, current speaker and microphone settings, currency, volume level, and much much more — see the “What data is being sent to trackers?” section above for full examples.

The creator company of Subway surfers – Sybo, told to The Washington Post that “In order for the game to function properly, some data is communicated to Ad Networks. As a company, we do not track users for advertising purposes without their consent.”

“Critics of the ad have called it misleading. Much of what users do on their iPhones and the data they generate doesn’t stay on their devices,” says Insiders, “iPhones routinely send some data to wireless carriers, websites, app developers — and to Apple’s own servers and services.”

Apple planned to scan user saved photos in the iCloud for child abuse but later the company delayed this because of privacy related criticism.

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