Tech

Apple iPhone data not as anonymous as company says: researchers

App developers at Mysk claim that analysis shows the detailed analytics data Apple records about what users do in the App Store can be linked directly to accounts. 

In a series of tweets on Sunday, Mysk researchers said Apple’s analytics data include a Directory Services Identifier (DSID), which uniquely identifies an iCloud account and is associated with name, email and any other iCloud-related data.

Mysk said the tech giant’s claims in its device analytics and privacy statement that the collected data does not personally identify users is “inaccurate,” and that the App Store continues to send detailed analytics to Apple even when sharing analytics is turned off.

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This illustration photo shows the Apple app store logo reflected from an iPhone onto the back of an iMac in Los Angeles, August 26, 2021.
(Chris Delmas/AFP via Getty Images)

“This means that your detailed behavior when browsing apps on the App Store is sent to Apple, and contains the ID needed to link the data to you,” Mysk said, noting that the DSID is also sent by other Apple apps for analytics purposes.

Mysk said there was no way to stop it. 

In its Device Analytics & Privacy statement, Apple says iPhone Analytics may include details about hardware and operating system specifications, performance statistics and data about how you use devices and applications. 

Customers experience the new iPhone 14 series smartphones at the Apple Inc flagship store in Shanghai, China, Oct 13, 2022.

Customers experience the new iPhone 14 series smartphones at the Apple Inc flagship store in Shanghai, China, Oct 13, 2022.
(CFOTO/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

“None of the collected information identifies you personally. Personal data is either not logged at all, is subject to privacy preserving techniques such as differential privacy, or is removed from any reports before they’re sent to Apple,” it said. “You can review this information on your iOS device by going to Settings > Privacy & Security > Analytics & Improvements and tapping Analytics Data.”

Apple notes that, should the user agree to send analytics information to Apple from multiple devices that use the same iCloud account, it may correlate some usage data about Apple apps across those devices by syncing using end-to-end encryption. 

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“We do this in a manner that does not identify you to Apple,” the statement says. 

Users may also choose to disable the sharing of device analytics altogether.

App Store icon displayed on a phone screen is seen in this illustration photo taken in Krakow, Poland, on July 18, 2021.

App Store icon displayed on a phone screen is seen in this illustration photo taken in Krakow, Poland, on July 18, 2021.
(Photo Ilustration by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

However, the App Store and Privacy statement says personal information is collected to improve the stores. 

“To find ways to improve the stores, we use information about your browsing, purchases, searches and downloads. These records are stored with IP address, a random unique identifier (where that arises) and Apple ID when you are signed in to the App Store or other Apple online stores,” Apple said.

 

On that page, it mentions turning off personalized ads, but the “Improving the Stores” section does not mention settings that would let users keep Apple from seeing personal information.

Fox News Digital’s request for comment from Apple was not returned.