Most of us are forced to delete apps on a regular basis, either because it doesn’t grab your attention anymore or you just don’t have any extra space lying around. You’d think once you remove an application you were done with it, but a new report claims some apps can still track you even after you’ve long gone.
It seems certain companies like Adjust, MoEngage, CleverTap, Localytics, and AppsFlyer offer brands uninstall trackers as part of a general set of developer tools. If someone decides to get rid of an app, the tracker can figure out which user uninstalled the application and then bombard them with ads to woo them back.
How App Ad Tracking Works
The way this works is simple. Both iOS and Android have a silent push notifications feature which lets developers ping apps at any time without the user coming to know. This is commonly used for refreshing an email inbox or social media feed in the background.
However, in cases where the application doesn’t respond, the app is recorded as uninstalled. The uninstall tracking tools then swing into action, adding these changes to a file which is attached to the phone’s unique advertising ID. At this point, the developer could identify the owner of the phone and show them targeted ads on whichever site they visit.
This violates Apple and Google’s policy against using silent push notifications for advertising. Neither of them have said anything about the issue yet, but a response should arrive soon given the renewed focus on privacy these days.
Bloomberg Businessweek identified a couple of firms such as T-Mobile US, Spotify, Yelp, and Bloomberg itself which are customers of the software companies mentioned above. However, the publication didn’t single out any brand which has actively tried to track people after they’ve left the app.