While Apple has made some movement toward limiting ad tracking for its apps, the process isn’t foolproof. This can be especially troubling when it comes to kids, who are more vulnerable to advertising and more likely to volunteer sensitive information. According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, Apple is planning to announce new limitations to third-party tracking for kids’ apps, and the obvious opportunity for that is at Monday’s 2019 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC).
Ad tracking is the process by which third-party companies — either app vendors or marketers associated with them — gather and share information about your browsing habits, phone, etc. This information can be used to specifically target your interests. For example, if you’ve recently searched for sites about birds, you may start to see ads for binoculars. According to The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern, a children’s iOS app called Curious World was sending info on her son’s name, age, and books to Facebook. And while the company claimed it was a glitch, she and a colleague found trackers in 79 out of 80 iPhone apps.
There have been a number of recent reports about how much data is actually being passed on from iPhones to third parties. Geoffrey Fowler at The Washington Post found that his apps were sending out data to marketing companies — including his phone number and exact location — at night when they were supposedly dormant. In April, Apple caused some consternation among parents by placing a ban on apps that helped parents monitor what their kids can do on a phone.
It may be time for Apple to pay attention to its claims that “privacy matters.” (There are some things you can do right now to protect your privacy — at least to some extent. Check out our article on how to block ad tracking on your iPhone.)
There has been no confirmation from Apple about what its response will be. We will let you know if we hear from the company. Otherwise, we’ll hopefully find out more during Monday’s WWDC keynote.