Awhile back, I had read an article talking about how the marketing industry is going to be forced into shifting their efforts with a different approach. Although their current efforts of cookie tracking will not die out for a long time, their focus will be more aggressive towards the mobile platforms. This makes sense of course, because as society continues to progress, a very large majority of the population uses and LIVES on their smartphones and tablets. It is this shift from computing to mobility that will provide a much more in depth look at users than computers ever did and with that, marketing companies will value you more than you ever have been. So how will they do this?
A UDID (Unique Device IDentifier) is to an iOS device as a social security number is to a person. Each device has it’s own unique ID number and they are permanent – the UDID can’t be changed. The UDID is also similar to a vehicle VIN number as both numbers are specific to features and specs of that particular device / vehicle.
Starting back in May 2013, Apple no longer allows apps to use any UDIDs with their apps. The UDID was being used for ad tracking / targeting purposes, but like all data aggregation tools, collecting such granular data into large pools of information had privacy advocates deeply concerned. Apple uses the UDID to authenticate to a user’s Apple ID, which allows devices to automatically download and install apps purchased on the App Store, or music purchased from iTunes.
It’s hard to trust that Apple, or any other entity, who has / gains access to UDID information would keep them protected. I definitely get ads in some apps I use that are locally based, but I am sure it is based on me having location services turned on. There is no way mobile devices can be totally free of ads, now or in the future. The marketing potential and results of impulse purchasing instantly anywhere is much too large to pass by.
Regardless of what impact this will have on marketing companies, one thing is clear. There shouldn’t be any reason anyone would need access to your UDID, other than iTunes. Don’t pass it out, don’t put it on the Internet, don’t text it, etc…Of course, I’m not really worried at this point because it’s not like I do these things. What worries me is if Apple can maintain protection of these identifiers and either protect them from being hacked or buckle under pressure in order to allow marketers to use them. Protect your UDID and reject any request for them.