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How to stop your iPhone from giving its unique identifier to third-party trackers

Because no one likes giving up information they don’t have to.

person holding iphone at desk using facebook
Image: Unsplash

Whatever Apple says about your data staying on your iPhone, it’s not entirely true. See, almost everything you do on your iPhone is linked to that phone’s advertising identifier. That identifier gets pulled by advertisers, app makers, and any number of third-party entities, and with the help of commercially available databases, linked directly back to you.

That’s a problem. How big of one? Well, remember the New York Times article showing the movements of those people who traveled to Washington, D.C. for the Jan 6 rally that turned into a storming of the Capitol Building? That article was made possible by just that, a data set linking unique (and supposedly randomized) identifiers used for advertising purposes. The paper then linked those to other available databases, and to phone location data, and voila, one map of everyone’s movements.

Sure, you might not have any desire to storm government buildings, but that doesn’t mean you want your data in anybody’s hands. Your visits to the doctor, AA meetings, times you’re at church or at the bar, all of your movements can be tied to the advertising identifier and back to you.

The solution? Turn off the ability for any apps to access that advertising identifier. Here’s how.

How to disable access to your iPhone’s advertising identifier

If you want to secure your iPhone, start here.

  1. Open the Settings app on your iPhone ios settings app

  2. Tap on Privacy ios privacy menu

  3. Tap on Tracking ios privacy tracking menu

  4. Tap the toggle switch next to Allow Apps to Request to Track so it’s grayed out ios turn off unique identifier tracking

Now your iPhone won’t be leaking its unique identifier to advertisers, game developers, or anyone else who asks for it. While you’re thinking in security terms, the next time something that doesn’t need access to your location to function asks for it, don’t tap on Okay. If it’s not a map app or a fitness tracker, it probably doesn’t need it and your location data will probably be used for advertising purposes, or possibly worse.

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