How iOS 8 defeats Wi-Fi location tracking in stores, malls and elsewhere

By , Jun 9, 2014

iOS 8 (MAC address randomization 001)

In a move designed to appease privacy watchers and further protect your privacy, Apple has made it that much harder for pesky marketeers to identify your device (and consequentially you as a user) or track your location as you go about your business. As discovered by Swiss programmer Frederic Jacobs, iOS 8 randomizes your device’s MAC address while scanning for networks.

A MAC address serves as a unique identifier assigned to network interfaces for communications on the physical network segment. By randomizing your device’s MAC address each time it scans for nearby Wi-Fi hotspots, iOS 8 effectively disguises any trace of the real device. Here’s hoping this becomes an industry standard. Jump past the fold to learn more about this nifty feature…

Jacobs shared an image on Twitter – basically a slide from Apple’s WWDC 2014 videos – outlining the new feature.

You’d be surprised how aggressively certain companies harvest MAC addresses for marketing and other purposes. In fact, there’s a whole industry built on MAC data collection.

A story by The New York Times highlights a company called Euclid Analytics, whose primary reason of existence is to log MAC addresses of devices in the vicinity of Wi-Fi zones in shopping malls, in order to learn about the various patterns of shoppers and sell that intelligence to third-parties.

Another startup has even dared install trash bins at London’s most trafficked location in order to collect the MAC addresses from passers-by, as reported by ArsTechnica.

I mean, how crazy is that?

The problem is, these controversial methods could be viewed as an aggressive violation of user privacy because that’s exactly what they are – privacy intrusions that shouldn’t be tolerated.

With this in mind, I’m really glad Apple has acted to make it harder for marketeers to track our location and identify our devices.

Sweet, no?

This is bound to cause havoc for mobile trackers and that can only be a good thing.

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  • Jason Duong

    Can you quit it with the, no? k thx.

    • Andrew Roth

      I kind of like it… I think it’s good to hear something different for once rather than the same article copy and pasted on twenty different sites.

  • mahe

    to force iBeacon … (or whatever it was called …)

    • ✪ aidan harris ✪

      They aren’t forcing anything. Marketers will still get data it will just be randomised and therefore irrelevant…

      • mahe

        If they want the data they have to use it, that’s what I meant.
        So in my opinion they do force them.

        This wasn’t meant to be an offence.
        That’s just how it looks to me and so this doesn’t make it really better.

        I’m one of those guys who enables WiFi only on demand, so I won’t get any benefit of this feature anyway.

      • http://GitHub.com/cc941201 CC-Dog

        iBeacon is a beacon, and there is no connection made between sender and receiver. The only time they will know is when you download the content through the identifier of iBeacon. You can disable ad tracking in settings, so no one can track you with iBeacon.

  • abdullah575

    good news : minecraft 0.9.0 build 1 is out !!

  • TeChNoStyLeZ

    Apple should add a theming option to iOS 8 if they want to make iOS a bit more open and if not third party themes then at least you should be able to switch between the ios 6 and ios 7 look

    • ✪ aidan harris ✪

      I don’t think Apple will do this. If you want to make your iOS 7 device look old and dated developer Coolstar has developed a series of tweaks to change the lock screen, dock and power down sliders and if working on a tweak to bring the iOS 6 folders to iOS 7 too…

  • Framboogle

    Someone should make this into a tweak.

  • Jamie Tilden

    This might be a bit irrelevant, but why do you use the term “fold” in your online article? That general refers to a newspaper. When I “jump past the fold” I’m really just reading the very next paragraph. There’s no break, video, or photo in the article to necessitate an electronic “fold”.

    • Andrew Roth

      When you’re viewing the home page you only see a part of the article unless you click the article to bring up the whole thing. That’s where the preview cuts off.

      • Jamie Tilden

        I suppose that makes sense

    • Brian May

      It’s an old expression referring to newspapers, especially the big newspapers like the NY Times that are folded in the middle. You would get the headline and a brief summation on the article and headline news on the top of the “fold” and you get the rest of the story by below the fold or “Jumping past the fold”

      • Jamie Tilden

        Yes I know. And I don’t believe it applies to online journalism.

  • Pedro Rolinski

    So, I have my router limiting its access by the MAC address. What does this mean to me? I have to set up a password?

  • overtook

    I use pryfi on my android phone to spoof hundreds of devices at once to spam these companies

  • CABLOOMI

    @chainfirexda did you create something like this i remember