When Apple unveiled its App Tracking Transparency framework for third-party applications last year, some firms were quick to criticize the functionality, claiming that it would negatively harm advertising. Following the release, several social applications, such as Instagram and Facebook, compelled users to allow tracking on iOS. According to a new study, several games on iOS and iPadOS continue to monitor users even when they select the “Ask app not to track” option.
For those who aren’t aware, Apple implemented App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14.5. So, if you’re using iOS 14.5 or above, you’ll see a choice to block an app from tracking your digital activity across third-party platforms whenever you launch a new app on your iPhone. Apple’s architecture prohibits the app from fingerprinting your device if you opt not to be tracked.
However, according to a recent Washington Post article (via 9to5Mac), some apps, such as Subway Surfers, which is classified as a “must play” on Apple’s App Store, track users even when they opt-out. According to the research, even if users pick the “Ask app not to track” option for some games, they continue to send third-party marketers various user data about their devices.
When you start Subway Surfers on your iOS device with the “Ask app not to track” option selected, the game allegedly begins transmitting data to Chartboost 29, a third-party advertising business. This information contains details such as your device’s IP address, how much free storage space is left on your iPhone, the device’s battery % (to 15 decimal points), and even the volume level (up to 3 decimal points). According to the article, in addition to Subway Surfers, the investigation discovered three more iOS apps that perform the same thing.
Following this revelation, the Washington Post claims to have alerted Apple about the malicious actions of the aforementioned iOS games. However, the Cupertino behemoth has done nothing to stop it. So, according to a former Apple engineer and co-founder of Lockdown, the firm that uncovered the aforementioned games, these app actions render Apple’s new App Tracking Transparency feature ineffective.
“When it comes to stopping third-party trackers, App Tracking Transparency is a dud. Worse, giving users the option to tap an ‘Ask App Not To Track’ button may even give users a false sense of privacy,” said the Lockdown co-founder and a former Apple engineer, Johnny Lin.