Twitter user Frederic Jacobs recently posted a previously unknown aspect of iOS 8 that should come as welcome news for the privacy minded among us.
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
Currently, if you have wi-fi enabled on your iPhone or iPad, your device is constantly scanning for available networks. In turn, there are no shortage of companies interested in collecting the resulting device data for a variety of purposes, often with the intent to gather and analyze consumer shopping habits and behaviors.
In shopping malls, for instance, a firm called Euclid Analytics collects, in its own words, "the presence of the device, its signal strength, its manufacturer (Apple, Samsung, etc.), and a unique identifier known as its Media Access Control (MAC) address."
Companies like Euclid or its peer Turnstyle Solutions use the data to track footfall in stores, how people move about in shops, how long they linger in certain sections, and how often they return. Store-owners use the information to target shoppers with offers or to move high-value items to highly-trafficked parts of the shop, among other things.
While no personal or identifiable information is ever gathered from users, the idea that companies are gathering, tracking, and analyzing a user's precise whereabouts, even if only through a MAC address, just doesn't sit will with a lot of people.
With iOS 8, concerned users will no longer have to worry about being tracked without their consent. Keep in mind, though, that this change in iOS 8 is only applicable to situations when your device is looking for a wi-fi network to hop onto. Once you actually connect to a wi-fi network, stores, for example, will be able to keep an eye on you.