Apple, like Android, treads on your privacy

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Apple, like Android, treads on your privacy

A new survey by the University of Oxford has proven that iPhone apps tend to violate your privacy just as often as Android apps do. According to the academic paper entitled “Are iPhones Really Better for Privacy?”, neither platform is better than the other when it comes to privacy.

The Tame Apple {ress has rushed to defend Apple pointing out that the study was conducted before the introduction of iOS 14.5 in April 2021, which made opt-in to tracking and app privacy labels mandatory on iPhones.

The researchers analysed the code, permissions and network traffic of 12,000 randomly selected free apps from each platform that had been updated or released in 2018 or later.

However, given that the TAPs has been telling us that Apple has been superior on privacy for years, we can put that sterling defence down to more spin.

Story Highlights

  • While Apple fanboys and the Tame Apple Press go on about how the fruity cargo cult being better for your privacy than Android, it seems that this is just spin.

  • “While it has been argued that the choice of smartphone architecture might protect user privacy, no clear winner between iOS and Android emerges from our analysis”, the paper adds. Data sharing for tracking purposes was common on both platforms.”

Each app was run on a real device, either a first-generation iPhone SE running iOS 14.2 or a Google Nexus 5 running Android 7 Nougat. They found that nearly all (89 percent ) of the Android apps contained at least one tracking library, which was almost always Google Play Services.

The numbers weren’t much lower on iOS, where 79 per cent of apps had at least one tracking library, most likely Apple’s own SKADNetwork, which tracks which ads a user clicks on.

However, 62 per cent of iOS apps also ran Google’s AdMob ad tracking library, followed by 54 per cent of iOS apps (and 58 per cent of Android apps) running Google Firebase. Facebook trackers were in 28 per cent of Android apps and 26 per cent of iOS ones. More than 90 per cent of Android apps and more than 60 per cent of iOS — shared data with tracking companies owned by Google. All tracking companies observed were based in the US About 9.5 per cent of iOS apps and 5 per cent of Android ones used Chinese-based trackers; 7.5 per cent of iOS apps and 2 per cent of Android ones used Indian trackers.

The team commended Apple for making it possible for iPhone users to block the temporary advertising IDs that flag your phone to advertisers, but the team saw an ulterior motive on Apple’s part. “Apple’s crackdown on Ad ID use could be interpreted as an attempt to divert revenue from Google and other advertising providers, and motivate the use of alternative monetisation models — which are more lucrative for Apple,” the Oxford research paper states. “Apple has arguably placed a larger emphasis on privacy, seeking to gain a competitive advantage by appealing to privacy-concerned consumers.”