As we all know, in September, Apple released a major overhaul of its iOS operating system for mobile devices: iOS 6. One of the promising, yet ultimately frustrating, features for privacy advocates was called the "Identifier for Advertising" or "IFA," which Apple created to replace the "UDID" as the mechanism of choice for ad targeting/tracking within the iOS arena. This change to the IFA was widely seen as an improvement since the UDID was a hardware-based identifier forever linked with an end-user's device. This meant the UDID could not be reset, cleared, or otherwise jettisoned. The IFA, on the other hand, is software-based, non-permanent, and could, in theory, be cleared or reset. This last point was the frustrating part for privacy folks. An end-user apparently had to invoke a major reset of one's app data and/or settings in order to reset or clear the IFA. Well, there is good news on that front. Apple has released iOS 6.1 Beta 2 to developers earlier this week, and privacy researcher Jonathan Mayer from Stanford (@jonathanmayer on Twitter) reported that iOS 6.1 includes a new, simple sliding toggle to achieve reset of the IFA, which will presumably leave the end-user's app data unmolested if an end-user elects to reset.
Why this matters for companies and consumers alike
If the public release of 6.1 includes the new reset slide for the IFA noted by Mayer, consumers will have an improved tool for managing one aspect of their mobile privacy. For companies, the existence of the IFA, with its built-in controls and simple interface, can be leveraged in disclosures and privacy regimes to enable user choice in a way that the UDID was not designed to do. We will be talking more about the IFA and what it means in different statutory and regulatory contexts in future posts.