In a world where virtually every computer is connected to virtually every other computer, millions of people spend countless hours reading and posting to social networks, and so many of us carry our own little internet boxes in our pockets, the issue of privacy has become tricky. Before the social media age and the rise of mobile technology, it was a lot simpler: companies weren’t allowed to listen in on your phone conversations with friends, read your mail, or follow you around at the grocery store or the mall to see what you bought.
With everyone connected all the time, though, it’s a little more difficult. Oftentimes basic features of the technology we love – things that these gadgets and services require to do what we want them to do – raise their own privacy concerns. We want to use our phone’s built-in map app to find our way from where we are to where we want to be, but we don’t want Google to know too much about where we are. We want Siri to understand what we say and give appropriate answers, but we’re not comfortable with the fact that she has to upload our queries to Apple’s servers to do it. App developers need to collect usage data so they know what features of their apps are the most popular and which need the most improvement, but we don’t want them to associate that data with our devices.
While many of these problems present significant difficulties, that last one, at least, may be remedied soon. In case you’re not familiar with the issue, Apple began taking steps recently to prevent iOS apps from accessing an iOS device’s universal device identifier (UDID). The concern was that allowing apps to do so compromised user privacy in a way that consumers were not comfortable with. While the move was good for user privacy, it presented significant problems for developers, since these apps used a device’s UDID to gather analytics data on how their apps were being used, how many users they had, how the apps were performing, and the like.
Now, though, Apple may have found a compromise. According to a report this afternoon from the Wall Street Journal, Apple will introduce a developers’ tool that will allow users to collect the data they need while masking a device’s UDID. The details of the new tool are unclear, but Apple is expected to roll it out over the next week. Though it might not make the WWDC 2012 keynote, there’s a good chance that it will be a major topic during the conference itself.