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posted by janrinok on Wednesday June 11 2014, @11:53AM   Printer-friendly
from the whats-in-it-for-them? dept.

Russell Brandom reports that a new feature in iOS 8 is set to cause havoc for location trackers, and score a major win for privacy: When iOS 8 devices look for a connection, iOS 8 will randomize their MAC address, effectively disguising any trace of the real device until it decides to connect to a network. Why are iPhones checking out Wi-Fi networks in disguise? Because there's an entire industry devoted to tracking customers through that signal. Shops from Nordstrom's to JC Penney have tried out a system that automatically logs any phone within Wi-Fi range, giving stores a complete record of who walked into the shop and when. But any phone using iOS 8 will be invisible to the process, potentially calling the whole system into question. "Now that Apple has embraced MAC spoofing, the practice of Wi-Fi sniffing may stop working entirely," says Brandom. "The result is a privacy win for Apple users and a major blow against data marketing and all it took was an automatic update."

 
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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 11 2014, @12:18PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 11 2014, @12:18PM (#54093)

    This change makes Apple the only party who can track the devices. Call the marketing dept during business hours and have you check book at hand... some win for privacy.

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  • (Score: 5, Informative) by JoeMerchant on Wednesday June 11 2014, @02:29PM

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Wednesday June 11 2014, @02:29PM (#54148)

    If they played fair, the spoofed addresses really are random and there is no way for Apple to track them either.

    Being of marginal value, Apple might actually have weighed the PR value of customer privacy higher than the value of passing tracking info to marketers.

    --
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    • (Score: 2) by frojack on Wednesday June 11 2014, @05:15PM

      by frojack (1554) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday June 11 2014, @05:15PM (#54223) Journal

      If they played fair, the spoofed addresses really are random and there is no way for Apple to track them either.

      Oh, come on, Joe, even YOU don't believe that. Apple has access to far more than a wifi mac address. (And so do the stores using this tracking technology). Phones leak their IMEI, MEID, and ICCID over the air to any and all adjacent towers and any off the shelf femtocells installed for the "customer's convienence".

      Apple isn't about to play fair. This protects and extends their walled garden. Your phone will still connect to your iCloud account and a dozen social networks, and many of those are not encrypted.

      If you own the wifi network, you can data mine all of that traffic that goes over that network, with nothing more than a seemingly innocuous piece of fine print on the connection page.

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  • (Score: 4, Informative) by keplr on Wednesday June 11 2014, @04:12PM

    by keplr (2104) on Wednesday June 11 2014, @04:12PM (#54200) Journal

    They're closing this information channel because the information that iOS leaks allows tracking for free. But don't fret, retailers! You'll be happy to know that Apple already produces a replacement [wikipedia.org] that you can license.

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    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 11 2014, @11:36PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 11 2014, @11:36PM (#54350)

      That is a misleading characterization. The ibeacon thing requires an app on the phone be looking for the beacon, its the reverse of listening for wifi MAC addresses because the ibeacon is the one broadcasting and phone is the one listening. If you don't have an app set up for that specific ibeacon's address, your phone does nothing. If you do have an app, whatever happens next totally depends on the app. The app could just passively record the fact that it saw the ibeacon's broadcast or it could go and try to connect to a website or something else crazy.

      But ibecaon itself is only similar to mac address sniffing in the most superficial of ways - they both involve some kind of radio.