Here’s another unannounced iOS 8 feature to get excited about. According to mobile developer Frederic Jacobs, Apple’s new mobile OS will block marketers from scanning your smartphone for information over Wi-Fi.
iOS 8 randomises the MAC address while scanning for WiFi networks. Hoping that this becomes an industry standard. pic.twitter.com/oGsZMtydUo
— Frederic Jacobs (@FredericJacobs) June 8, 2014
Basically, if you’re walking around any major city with your smartphone’s Wi-Fi antenna turned on any number of organizations from marketers to the government are gleaming personal information from your phone. Speaking to Quartz, one firm admitted to scanning the phones of mall shoppers to record their device’s signal strength, manufacturer and MAC address. Another London startup confirmed it set up a number of recycling bins around the city just to record MAC addresses.
Your MAC address lets companies track you as you move around a store or a larger area, even targeting specific shoppers when they return based on perceived preferences. With iOS 8, your iPhone will generate a random MAC whenever you’re scanning for Wi-Fi, meaning potential snoopers won’t be able to track you as easily.
Of course, there’s no guarantee marketers and government agencies won’t figure out a new way to track your smartphone. Still, it’s nice to see Apple looking out for its customers privacy, and like Jacobs we hope other phone-makers follow Cupertino’s lead.