The highly antic­i­pated release of iOS 5 is caus­ing waves of excite­ment across the mobile land­scape. When the Tech Crunch reported on UDID changes in iOS 5, the wave then rip­pled through the mobile mar­ket­ing ecosys­tem in the form of “What does UDID removal mean to mobile ana­lyt­ics for apps?” As noted in the report, Apple will dep­re­cate devel­op­ers’ app access to the UDID, or “uniqueI­den­ti­fier,” embed­ded in each iOS device (iPod, iPhone, and iPad). Like a computer’s MAC address, the UDID is a unique hard­ware iden­ti­fier that does not change regard­less of the user or app cur­rently run­ning. I have fielded many ques­tions on the topic recently and am con­sol­i­dat­ing the responses in three areas below.

What does this change mean for user privacy?

Third party ad net­works access the UDID to track the use of mobile devices, sim­i­lar to how web browser cook­ies can store infor­ma­tion unique to a given user. Unlike cook­ies how­ever, a device’s UDID can be read by any app, allow­ing ad net­works to coor­di­nate their data across apps with a glob­ally unique ser­ial num­ber that doesn’t change and can’t be deleted.

The iPhone UDID is often accom­pa­nied by infor­ma­tion that pro­vides the iden­tity and loca­tion of the per­son using the iPhone. That infor­ma­tion includes the user’s real name or user ID, as well as the time-stamped IP address and GPS coordinates.

I feel the removal of UDID is a pos­i­tive step for­ward in mobile pri­vacy and removes the grey area many orga­ni­za­tions face. In dis­cus­sions with mobile teams from many com­pa­nies, this ques­tion is raised very fre­quently “is UDID con­sid­ered Per­son­ally Iden­ti­fi­able Infor­ma­tion (PII)?” By remov­ing access to the ID, the ques­tion is resolved. Every­one is on an even play­ing field (except Apple if they con­tinue to use it). No one will have access to it, regard­less if they are con­cerned about PII or not.

What does iOS 5 UDID dep­re­ca­tion mean to Adobe Site­Cat­a­lyst app measurement?

Since each app is forced to main­tain its own per-user track­ing, iOS 5 aims to pre­vent firms from effec­tively track­ing users unique to a device, or to cross-reference behav­ioral data col­lected from mul­ti­ple apps. The good news is Apple is going about this change in an appro­pri­ate man­ner, mean­ing not instantly remov­ing access right away, but rather giv­ing the devel­oper com­mu­nity a dep­re­ca­tion warning.

This move high­lights the need is greater than ever to cre­ate a login or reg­is­tered ID for app track­ing. If your app does not have a user reg­is­tered ID or you have no plans to add one, feel free to con­tact me and let’s dis­cuss your mobile strat­egy. I highly rec­om­mend a reg­is­tered ID for not only behav­ioral data across apps, but more impor­tantly cross plat­form. Since apps are just one part of your mar­ket­ing suc­cess, a reg­is­tered ID is key to track­ing how users engage with your con­tent across stan­dard web, mobile web, mobile apps, and poten­tially dig­i­tal home or gam­ing consoles.

Adobe Site­Cat­a­lyst app mea­sure­ment for iOS cur­rently uses the UDID by default if a reg­is­tered ID or devel­oper gen­er­ated ID is not set. Since many clients already set their own unique ID, they will not be impacted by the removal of UDID in terms of track­ing uniques or iden­ti­fy­ing vis­i­tors with this change in iOS 5. For those using the default where UDID is set as the vis­i­tor ID, we will be releas­ing an update to the SDK in the near future to con­form to iOS 5 new stan­dards.

What can you expect from Adobe App Mea­sure­ment for iOS in the near future?

We plan to release an update of the iOS SDK in the near future, chang­ing the default method of set­ting the vis­i­tor ID so the UDID is not used. Engi­neer­ing is cur­rently look­ing at the pos­si­bil­i­ties to deter­mine the best action going for­ward. Our goal is to release this SDK as soon as pos­si­ble so devel­op­ers have time to imple­ment the new SDK prior Apple remov­ing the UDID access com­pletely some­time after iOS 5 releases. We antic­i­pate all clients will need to update the library files at a min­i­mum, even those not using UDID, to ensure the app sub­mis­sion process to Apple remains smooth.

We will ensure that the new method for the default vis­i­tor ID will clear any pri­vacy reviews. Adobe takes user pri­vacy very seri­ously and is a lead­ing advo­cate for user pri­vacy. The new method will also allow the vis­i­tor ID to remain per­sis­tent for the app.

I will make another blog post as soon as new meth­ods are defined and time­lines are con­firmed to keep you informed.

A spe­cial thanks to Peter Fransen, Lead Mobile Engi­neer, for his con­tri­bu­tions to this post.

Please com­ment below with your thoughts and ques­tions on the topic or email me — rjwoods@​adobe.​com. Look for­ward to hear­ing from you.

UPDATE : The blog­post with the new method has been posted here.

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