Third party computer support and app developers are under the gun to meet the fast approaching deadline for UDID compliance that Apple set out earlier in the year. Miss the deadline and they face a ban from the iTunes App store. There is big business at stake for both sides, and many independent developers feel like they have been caught in between the two giants.
On one hand, Apple owes respect to their customers
The revelation that the PATH app was tracking UDIDs and using the information to lift contact books off Apple products shook consumers. With a rise in mobile hacking and issues of privacy still at the fore of the news – the knowledge that their friendly and free apps were tracking the equivalent of their social security numbers did not sit well with consumers. Apple responded swiftly issuing a moratorium on app acceptance that actively tracks UDID, and issuing a deadline for removal from the store of any apps that currently track the number.
Why do apps need your UDID?
Your UDID is the unique signifier on your iPhone that is often referred to as its social security number. It allows developers to see where you go and what you do. It can also allow them access to your private data that may be stored on the phone which can contain identifying information and financial information. On one hand it is easy to say they have no need for this information, but from a developing and marketing standpoint that information is vital to understanding consumer behavior. Poor PATH got caught in the middle because they were doing something that everyone was doing for reputable reasons, but got caught in the storm of customer awareness of just how their information can be used of illegal purposes.
What happens next?
Apple knows that tracking consumer behavior is essential to apps so they have offered up a compromise. App developers can no longer track UDIDs, but they can track the CFDID. That number is not as unique to the specific phones, but it also does not allow access to any of the user’s information. That sounds like a decent compromise until you figure the cost of converting apps to track this number. For many small developers, there is no budget for creating an update so their app can meet these standards. Consumers may also get the unpleasant surprise of seeing more apps start to charge fees in order to cover these revised development costs.
Still an issue is left standing
The real issue has been missed in this event. The issue isn’t that apps were tracking UDIDs, but that some apps exist for the sole purposes of capturing unique identifying information for sale to the highest bidder. Apple may have made a wiser choice to placate the consumer while investigating more stringent application processes to weed our malapps from their store, but that would have cost the company money. Better for them to push the cost on the consumer and 3rd part developer while getting the press that they did good by all.