With iOS 8, Apple scores a major win for privacy as it is set to trick locations trackers and protect iOS device users. The Apple-way to protect the user’s privacy was spotted by a Swiss programmer, Frederic Jacobs.
As we said before, the two hours of WWDC keynote were enough just to present a fraction of the new features iOS 8 brings. While we have pointed to a handful of features, the next-gen mobile operating system will bring, Jacobs has spotted a major improvement which has to do with the MAC address a device uses while scanning for Wi-Fi networks.
iOS 8 randomises the MAC address while scanning for WiFi networks. Hoping that this becomes an industry standard. pic.twitter.com/oGsZMtydUo
— Frederic Jacobs (@FredericJacobs) June 8, 2014
As the Quartz article highlights, there is an entire industry built around the Wi-Fi signal. A company called Euclid Analytics, for example, has a great solution for shopping malls, a system that logs the MAC address of every single device that gets near the Wi-Fi zone. In London, on the other hand, a startup installed trash bins, sniffing the MAC addresses from passers-by.
Because the MAC address is the unique identifier devices send out to connect to a router, the system is able to use the data in many ways, raising privacy concerns.
With iOS 8, this is about to change, because it will generate a random MAC address while scanning for networks, meaning that agencies collecting the aforementioned information will never know if the device (person) was there.
Last year, with iOS 7, Apple prevented app developers from using MAC addresses to spy on people who installed their apps. This year, however, Apple goes even further: it protects its users’ privacy from any company that uses wireless networking to identify a device.