Mozilla, the company behind Firefox, today launched a petition urging Apple to reset the unique IDs used to serve interest-based ads in the App Store and Apple News apps on the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Apple TV on a monthly basis.
Apple’s latest marketing campaign — “Privacy. That’s iPhone” — made us raise our eyebrows.
It’s true that Apple has an impressive track record of protecting users’ privacy, from end-to-end encryption on iMessage to anti-tracking in Safari.
But a key feature in iPhones has us worried, and makes their latest slogan ring a bit hollow.
Each iPhone that Apple sells comes with a unique ID (called an “identifier for advertisers” or IDFA), which lets advertisers track the actions users take when they use apps. It’s like a salesperson following you from store to store while you shop and recording each thing you look at. Not very private at all.
These identifiers can already be manually reset under Settings > Privacy > Advertising on iOS devices and under Settings > General > Privacy on Apple TV, but Mozilla is asking for “a real cap” with an automatic monthly reset to make it “harder for companies to build a profile about you over time.”
“If Apple makes this change, it won’t just improve the privacy of iPhones — it will send Silicon Valley the message that users want companies to safeguard their privacy by default,” wrote Ashley Boyd, Mozilla’s VP of Advocacy.
Interest-based ads in the App Store and Apple News app are based on information such as your App Store search history and Apple News reading history. Apple makes it easy to opt out, but Mozilla argues that “most people don’t know that feature even exists, let alone that they should turn it off.”