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How To: Turn off Ad Tracking in iOS 6

  • Ad tracking on by default
  • Controlled by Apple, not third party firms
  • Easy to remove, but not straightforward to find
Written by Adam Wajnberg

Whatever opinion you may have had about Steve Jobs, there’s no denying the man was a master salesman. Of course, it helps that he brought plenty of steak to back his sizzle – Apple products were and are good, by just about any definition. But every salesman has to occasionally set in with the turd polish and get to work.

ios 6 ad tracking


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Such was the case in September 2010, when Jobs had to somehow sell the idea of ads splashed across iOS as a beautiful addition to the operating system. It didn’t work. After a few years, iAds have demonstrated that people don’t want extra ad revenue being generated on a device they already paid through the nose for.

So advertisers switched to UDID tracking. This technology tracks Unique Device Idenitifier (UDID) numbers and activity to push ads through services like Trademob and Adfonic into apps. This was quickly disabled by Apple, but only to find a more ‘elegant’ solution, it would seem.

With iOS 6, Apple has integrated a new technology called IFA or IDFA – Identification for Advertisers. IFA is supposedly better for a few reasons:

-          It’s sanctioned by Apple, rather than trying to work around Apple. In fact, Apple has specifically sandboxed this tracking technology to satiate the needs of advertisers and app developers who keep its App Store offerings relatively cheap and accessible, without allowing their customers to be tracked by mysterious third parties.

-          It’s temporary. Each tracking session is temporary, meaning that when you restore your phone, the tracking data gets lost. This is better for advertisers – it means that phones being passed from one generation to the next (or sold on eBay) are not mixing up information that makes it less effective. UDIDs are permanent and immovable.

-          It can be turned off at the owners discretion.

Of course, that implies that it is turned on by default. If you’re into your phone, the first app you play with is the Settings App. You would probably find it eventually. But this accounts for a good 1% of users at best. What about the rest of us?

Removing yourself from the mobile ad game

ios 6 ad tracking

We should say that there is nothing inherently wrong with mobile ads, at least not when compared to the rest of the advertising industry. App developers can sell mobile ads to keep their games and apps free of charge. But really, we’re talking about trying to sell you stuff when you’re in an intimate, glossy-eyed, receptive mood- when you’re playing with your fancy toy that also works as your magic communication device to the rest of the world. If this type of psychology didn’t work, the whole economy would collapse (more). We have to assume that this stuff works.

But if you feel that enough is enough, you do have the option to turn this stuff off.

1.       Go to Settings

2.       Go to General (NOT Privacy)

3.       Go to About

4.       Go to Advertising (3rd from bottom)

5.       Limit Ad Tracking will be switched to OFF by default. Switch to ON.

That’s it. You gotta love the double negative – Do You Want to Not Have Your Ad Tracking Limited? Hell, that might be a triple negative. Whatever the case, you have the option.

Note – Ad Tracking in Android is just as bad, with more fiddly options to opt out. This isn’t an anti-Apple thing.


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