According to a new report from TechCrunch, Apple appears to have made an interesting change in iOS 5, removing developers’ ability to access a device’s UDID. This is significant, as it will permanently change the way developers authorize devices to test their apps.
The change is also significant in that it could significantly affect mobile ad networks and game networks, which often use your device’s UDID to identify users and retrieve account and saved data. This is concerning to many ad publishers, as they must now discard all of the historical data they have collected from their users and start fresh, no longer having any way to associate the data with individuals.
The primary concern is that of privacy – Apple and many app developers have been sued over the use of UDIDs, as the identification number is tied to a specific device and given out to advertisers, thus using individuals’ personal data (albeit anonymously) to target advertisements to users – a practice which has concerned privacy advocates.
Apple’s changes seem to specifically address possible privacy concerns, and serve to limit the ability of advertisers and developers to assemble complete consumer profiles of individuals. The actual language from the developer documentation is as follows:
Deprecated in iOS 5.0
An alphanumeric string unique to each device based on various hardware details. (read-only) (Deprecated in iOS 5.0. Instead, create a unique identifier specific to your app.)
It’s currently unclear when Apple will be implementing the changes, or what kind of transitional system they will provide to developers. It’s also unclear whether Apple itself will stop relying on the UDID as a unique identifier for iAds, Game Center or other services. The change basically serves as a warning to developers and advertising networks alike that their methods of identifying users, either to preserve application data, identify consumer information, or target advertisements, will be changing down the line.
Developers: How will this change affect you, if at all? Feel free to sound off in the comments