Apple gives unexpected boost to iPhone privacy with randomized MAC addresses for iOS 8

Numerical tags used to identify mobiles on Wi-Fi networks will be randomized in the next update to Apple's mobile operating system

A small, unpublicised change to Apple’s mobile operating system has been praised by developers and privacy advocates for making it more difficult to track iPhones.

First spotted by a security researcher named Frederic Jacobs, the iOS 8 tweak randomizes MAC addresses – the codes used to identify mobile devices on Wi-Fi networks – making it difficult to create a profile of a phone’s owner.

Whether or not they connect to a network, smartphones that have their Wi-Fi turned on openly broadcast their MAC address, along with the phone’s location and other crumbs of identifying information such as the device’s manufacturer.

Some marketers have started using this information to track consumers, monitoring anything from footfall outside a coffee shop to customers’ movements inside a shop (“linger time”).

Although MAC addresses are not tied to phone numbers or names, researchers have found that even a few days’ worth of ‘anonymous’ tracking can be used to build up a portrait of an individual.

One marketing company that tracked MAC addresses using London’s Wi-Fi enabled smart bins reported logging “4,009,676 devices […] with over 530,000 uniques” in a single week.

 By randomizing MAC addresses, Apple is making it more difficult for advertiser (and intelligence agencies) to connect personal information within the movements of any given mobile device.

The decision is one of several privacy-focused moves Apple announced at WWDC, with the company also introduce anonymous search-engine DuckDuckGo to its default options and allow users to restrict apps’ access to location data when the software is not in use.  

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Lead Developer - ASP.Net / C# / MVC / JavaScript / HTML5

    £55000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is looking for a Lea...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

    £45000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Engineer is requi...

    Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: 1st / 2nd Line IT Support Technician

    £20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a small IT consultancy...

    Day In a Page

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral