Advertisers expect iCloud Private Relay to end fingerprinting users

Posted:
in iOS
App Tracking Transparency was only the beginning of blocking trackers, says advertisers, with iCloud Private Relay being the nail in the coffin for fingerprinting on iOS altogether.

iCloud Private Relay is coming with iOS 15
iCloud Private Relay is coming with iOS 15


Apple announced Private Relay as a feature of iCloud+ during WWDC 2021. The feature is meant to bounce internet traffic through two relays before providing content to the end user, thus masking the user from tracking.

According to Digiday, advertisers have mixed feelings about Apple's implementation of Private Relay. Some see it as yet another obstacle they can overcome with some tricky coding, while others see it as the end of fingerprinting on iOS.

Shumel Lais, CEO of mobile advertising intelligence business Appsumer, says Private Relay is a "precursor" to Apple using technical solutions to break fingerprinting. The report suggests the current version of Private Relay won't be a deterrent against fingerprinting since it is only used for the web and a tiny amount of app traffic.

This may lead to a "cat and mouse game" between Apple, ad tech vendors with fingerprinting solutions, and the apps integrating them, said Aaron McKee, chief technology officer at mobile ad tech vendor Blis. Also, Apple would only provide the service to paying customers on iCloud, limiting the use of Private Relay.

"Apple needs to be careful when it uses its market position in a way that could be interpreted as either anti-competitive or too dictatorial," said Nii Ahene, chief strategy officer at digital agency Tinuiti. "This is why there's a gradual rollout of Apple's privacy plan. The company communicates what it will do early, starts to have conversations behind the scenes, and then over some time the enforcement of the ATT policy starts to kick in."

Apps have been finding ways around Apple's App Tracking Transparency controls and track users with other metrics. Apple says this isn't allowed and apps will be kicked if they are discovered to be avoiding ATT, but the report says this isn't being aggressively enforced yet.

However, advertisers may not have to worry about Apple enforcing the anti-tracking rules if the Private Relay implementation is good enough. Apple could simply enable this feature and block tracking altogether, allowed or not.

iCloud Private Relay will obfuscate traffic from known trackers
iCloud Private Relay will obfuscate traffic from known trackers


The Digiday report seems to be missing a few facts on iCloud Private Relay. First, Private Relay isn't only enabled for paying users -- the scope of its use changes depending on if the user has a paid account or not.

All users on iOS 15 will have Private Relay enabled for Safari at launch. Any traffic associated with known trackers, advertisers, and other data will be sent through the Private Relay regardless of iCloud+ subscription status.

Those who subscribe get the added benefit of sending all Safari traffic through Private Relay, rather than just trackers. Add in ATT to this feature, and it will be next to impossible to track users outside of Apple's approved APIs.

Also, Apple has been enforcing its ATT guidelines since the start. While some apps are bound to slip through the review process, this doesn't mean Apple has been lax in enforcing its rules.

Charles Manning, CEO of mobile attribution analytics firm Kochava, says it is only a matter of time before apps breaking ATT rules are kicked. He says marketing leads will have to have a tough discussion with their board if an app is removed for ignoring Apple's year-long guidance.

App Tracking Transparency went into effect with the iOS 14.5 update and has given users the ability to opt-out of cross-device tracking. Private Relay will be available to all users when iOS 15 launches in the fall.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 20
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,562member
    I can see websites implementing the same type of knee-jerk code that happens when you have an ad-blocker, they simply won't let you in unless you turn it off. When I see these sites, I simply get out of them. The larger problem occurs when websites I need to access force me into disabling the content disabler along with allowing pop-ups. I would think by now we would have gotten rid of pop-ups but many web developers are lazy. When it comes to clicks, however, they will do whatever they can to force you to disable everything in order to see their website. My only hope is iCloud Private Relay will trick them into believing they're actually tracking someone when they aren't.
    magman1979pulseimagesStrangeDaystwokatmewwatto_cobrawilliamlondon
  • Reply 2 of 20
    techconctechconc Posts: 157member
    rob53 said:
    I can see websites implementing the same type of knee-jerk code that happens when you have an ad-blocker, they simply won't let you in unless you turn it off.
    ...
    My only hope is iCloud Private Relay will trick them into believing they're actually tracking someone when they aren't.
    This won't block ads, so the traditional type of code to prevent access to sites with ad blockers wouldn't work.  These sites will have "something" to track... there will be just no way to actually tie it back to you.

    On a side note, I am genuinely thankful that we have companies like Apple who champion user privacy and challenge the despicable practices common within the advertising world. 
    rob53maltzmagman1979dysamoriatwokatmewrobabawatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 20
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,562member
    techconc said:
    rob53 said:
    I can see websites implementing the same type of knee-jerk code that happens when you have an ad-blocker, they simply won't let you in unless you turn it off.
    ...
    My only hope is iCloud Private Relay will trick them into believing they're actually tracking someone when they aren't.
    This won't block ads, so the traditional type of code to prevent access to sites with ad blockers wouldn't work.  These sites will have "something" to track... there will be just no way to actually tie it back to you.

    On a side note, I am genuinely thankful that we have companies like Apple who champion user privacy and challenge the despicable practices common within the advertising world. 
    I think the article is saying they're going to try and figure out how to do what your first paragraph, second sentence says--find a way to actually figure out who you are or simply not let you have access to their website.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 20
    XedXed Posts: 981member
    Love, love, love this feature!
    magman1979kurai_kageBeatstwokatmewwatto_cobrawilliamlondon
  • Reply 5 of 20
    I have always preferred trusted venders I purchase from to send text messages, or e-mail with coupons, or notices of sales. I don’t appreciate being followed around by online stores I have no interest in.  
    netroxtwokatmewrobabawatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 20
    netroxnetrox Posts: 1,025member
    People don't seem to appreciate the upcoming version of iOS - the ability to give a different email address that will be redirected to your original email address to prevent them from harvesting is a HUGE deal for me. I am tired of websites asking me for email address as they use it to make money selling email addresses. 

    I want email address created for every single entity and have the iCloud automatically forward it to me so I can sort it on my side. If I see other entities using email address, I know those companies are selling my email addresses.


    gregoriusmBeatstwokatmewwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 20
    I want to know what's up with the screen of the phone in the photo...
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 20
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,406member
    I want to know what's up with the screen of the phone in the photo...
    Looks very much like a pasted on screen.  A fake photo.  
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 20
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,406member
    We need someone who can lead the effort of an “apps of shame” list that publicly and prominently lists all apps that are implementing tracking outside of the allowed APIs (as they are found out) and get a majority of people to just avoid those apps.  That is really the only way to get companies to give up on this.  Make it cost them. 
    Beatstwokatmewwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 20
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 3,396member
    When it’s a subscription service from one company on one platform, it’s not going to “end” an entire abusive industry’s practice across the board. I won’t be paying for it.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 11 of 20
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,020member
    rob53 said:
    I can see websites implementing the same type of knee-jerk code that happens when you have an ad-blocker, they simply won't let you in unless you turn it off. When I see these sites, I simply get out of them. The larger problem occurs when websites I need to access force me into disabling the content disabler along with allowing pop-ups. I would think by now we would have gotten rid of pop-ups but many web developers are lazy. When it comes to clicks, however, they will do whatever they can to force you to disable everything in order to see their website. My only hope is iCloud Private Relay will trick them into believing they're actually tracking someone when they aren't.
    I've had issues with a few support chat sessions and completing certain online forms that simply won't appear with an adblocker in use. Apparently, ad blockers interfere with more than just ads.  
    Beatstwokatmew
  • Reply 12 of 20
    iadlibiadlib Posts: 74member
    Good riddance to bad rubbish
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 20
    BeatsBeats Posts: 2,441member
    dysamoria said:
    When it’s a subscription service from one company on one platform, it’s not going to “end” an entire abusive industry’s practice across the board. I won’t be paying for it.

    It ends it for us. Other people are free to play in that toxic hell stew.
    StrangeDaystwokatmewwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 20
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,395member
    dysamoria said:
    When it’s a subscription service from one company on one platform, it’s not going to “end” an entire abusive industry’s practice across the board. I won’t be paying for it.
    The feature is bundled with any paid iCloud tier. You don’t pay .99 a month for storage? Why not?
    Fidonet127twokatmewwatto_cobrawilliamlondon
  • Reply 15 of 20
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 23,020member
    Privacy will be marketed as a paid service? I had expected it from Google where "free" services are paid for with personal data for ads unless the user pays cash for the service instead, ie Google One or Enterprise. I'm more surprised to see Apple requiring pay for privacy too, but perhaps I shouldn't be. Good businesses don't leave money on the table.
    edited July 9
  • Reply 16 of 20
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,395member
    gatorguy said:
    Privacy will be marketed as a paid service? I had expected it from Google where "free" services are paid for with personal data for ads unless the user pays cash for the service instead, ie Google One or Enterprise. I'm more surprised to see Apple requiring pay for privacy too, but perhaps I shouldn't be. Good businesses don't leave money on the table.
    Your agenda is showing, spare us. Apple already offers more in-device, OS-level privacy than Google will ever consider, and I’ve never heard of anyone offering web surfing VPN-like services for free. I don’t know m/any not dropping the whopping .99 a month for basic iCloud storage, which includes Private Relay for web traffic. 
    watto_cobrawilliamlondon
  • Reply 17 of 20
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,152member
    dysamoria said:
    When it’s a subscription service from one company on one platform, it’s not going to “end” an entire abusive industry’s practice across the board. I won’t be paying for it.
    As others have pointed out it starts at 99¢ per month and is not just the VPN feature. 

    No single service is going to stop companies’ abusive behavior, but we can at least chip away at it. 
    watto_cobrawilliamlondon
  • Reply 18 of 20
    techconctechconc Posts: 157member
    rob53 said:
    I think the article is saying they're going to try and figure out how to do what your first paragraph, second sentence says--find a way to actually figure out who you are or simply not let you have access to their website.
    I think you're getting "blocking trackers" confused with "blocking ads".  To be clear, the article doesn't say this service will block ads.  Ad blockers are easily detectable because the source isn't sending an actual ad.  With this new service, ads will be delivered, it's just that advertisers won't be able to fingerprint you like they've been able to in the past.  You will effectively appear as a new customer each time.  It would be hard to see how or even why advertisers would try to block that traffic.

    This very well may end up being something of a cat & mouse game, but for now, the advantage is swinging back to the end user (Apple users anyway).
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 20
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,152member
    gatorguy said:
    Privacy will be marketed as a paid service? I had expected it from Google where "free" services are paid for with personal data for ads unless the user pays cash for the service instead, ie Google One or Enterprise. I'm more surprised to see Apple requiring pay for privacy too, but perhaps I shouldn't be. Good businesses don't leave money on the table.
    Your agenda is showing, spare us. Apple already offers more in-device, OS-level privacy than Google will ever consider, and I’ve never heard of anyone offering web surfing VPN-like services for free. I don’t know m/any not dropping the whopping .99 a month for basic iCloud storage, which includes Private Relay for web traffic. 
    Apple has been marketing privacy for quite some time to the point that it’s part of their brand, and many companies have paid VPN services. I fail to see anything untoward with what Apple’s doing here. Perhaps what google should be doing is overly saying “our services are ‘free’ as long as you consent to us tracking everything you do, storing that data and letting us sell your information to advertisers so they can cyberstalk you around the web.”
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 20
    robabarobaba Posts: 127member
    Suck it—parasites!  

    Adds are fine, tracking is shitty.

    Don’t be shitty.
    watto_cobra
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