Apple’s New Rules against App Fingerprinting

Apple’s New Rules against App Fingerprinting: Apple Inc., in its latest move to strengthen privacy and data protection, has announced it will start imposing stricter rules on applications that use ‘fingerprinting’ techniques. ‘Fingerprinting’ refers to the process by which apps gather data about users’ devices to track them uniquely. Developers are now required to justify their use of certain Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that could potentially be exploited for fingerprinting.

A Closer Look at the New Rules

Starting with the release of iOS 17, tvOS 17, watchOS 10, and macOS Sonoma, developers will need to explain why they’re employing the so-called ‘required reason’ APIs. Apps that fail to give a valid reason for the use of these APIs could face rejection starting from spring 2024.

These changes aim to curtail the misuse of certain APIs that can gather data about users’ devices, a potential avenue for fingerprinting. To use these APIs, developers must clearly state their reasons in the privacy manifest of their apps.

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What This Means for Developers

These new rules may increase the rate of app rejections. For instance, many applications use an API called ‘UserDefaults’, which falls into the ‘required reason’ category, as it stores user preferences. However, it appears that Apple will initially rely on developers’ honesty in declaring their reasons for using these APIs. If declarations prove to be inaccurate, Apple would have a paper trail for any potential penalties.

A Continued War on Tracking

These changes can be viewed as an extension of Apple’s ongoing battle against user tracking. Apple first took a stand against tracking with the release of iOS 14.5 in 2021, which made it mandatory for developers to request users’ permission before tracking them. The initiative was highly successful, with only 4% of US iPhone users consenting to app tracking.

The tech giant is now targeting ‘fingerprinting’ or ‘canvas fingerprinting,’ a more covert form of tracking that first surfaced a decade ago. Apple had previously pledged to tackle fingerprinting on its Safari browser by limiting the data websites could access. With these new rules, Apple is taking a step further to cover apps as well.

Conclusion of Apple’s New Rules against App Fingerprinting

This move by Apple reaffirms its commitment to user privacy and is likely to spur debates about the nature of tracking and the handling of personal data in the digital sphere. It’s yet another step towards a future where users have greater control over their digital identities and privacy. Apple’s new rules will undoubtedly affect the app development industry, but they also signal a trend towards a more privacy-focused tech ecosystem.



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