iOS 8 MAC address randomization issues

Apple privacy policy on MAC address randomization

iOS 8 MAC address randomization issues

It has been known since June this year that Apple with introduce a privacy/security feature to prevent its users from being followed through wifi-tracking (something happening often in stores – though we are still at scarce knowledge how many stores use it). Google this, and you will be surprised how many web-tech savvy sites were excited about the news. Here is the bad news: Apple’s new feature seems quite worthless to most users (at least at this stage). According to Bhupinder Misra (from airtightnetworks.com), this feature will only work if you have both location services and mobile data switched off. So in very simple terms used by Washington Post, if “you’re actually using your phone“.

In some detail, Misra looked at how the generation of random mac-addresses are implemented by iOS 8. In his opinion, only very few people have both options switched off simultaneously. It should be noted, however, that Misra only mentions the use of this feature in iPhone 5 and iPhone 5c – though it is to be expected that the same applies to the recently released iPhone 6 models. Furthermore, Misra points to the lack of transparency from Apple on how and when the feature is supposed to be working. Their privacy page only mentions that “your MAC address now changes when you’re not connected to a network, it can’t be used to persistently track you”.

This may seem obvious, but once you are connected it would be ridiculous to disconnect you in order to change your MAC address. Still, some words should be said about location services as a prerequisite of the new feature to work.

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