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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