Apple has been one of the most vocal supporters of user privacy. However, it seems the Cupertino giant is struggling to enforce some of its rules on app developers, a new study suggests.
Early this year, Apple rolled out a new privacy feature ‘Request to Track’ that makes it mandatory for apps on iOS to take permission from users before tracking their activity across other apps and websites for targeted advertising.
New research by Top10vpn.com shows that there is a loophole in Apple’s ‘Request to Track’ feature. During the testing, the researchers found that only 15% of the top 20 free VPN apps on the US App Stores are following the new rules and seeking user consent before tracking them on other apps.
Surprisingly, 35% of the VPN apps didn’t even seek tracking consent from users, while 65% of them shared the actual IP address of users with advertisers even after they were denied permission to do so. What is even more alarming is that 80% of the apps were caught sharing the IP address even before asking permission to allow ad tracking.
Researchers at Top10vpn also found that 45% were sharing detailed information about users’ iPhones that could be used to identify and even track them, while 75% were sharing basic information about their iPhones with advertisers.
The fact that VPN apps were sharing users’ IP addresses is even more problematic and misleading as the primary objective of any VPN app is to keep users' identities private by masking the real IP address.
The researchers claim the purpose of the study was to put pressure on Apple to enforce its app privacy guidelines and remove any apps from its store that are caught violating them.
Top10VPN said it has been campaigning since 2018 to make Apple do more than just lip service in the name of privacy.
Free VPN apps are in high demand due to rising internet censorship and geo-restrictions on content on video streaming platforms have contributed to their downloads.
According to a previous report by Top10Vpn, Google and Apple have repeatedly failed to act and takedown apps that were flagged as unsafe.