Apple’s Privacy Fumble: EU Users Tracked Across Sites by ‘Secure’ Alternatives

In a “whoopsie-daisy” of epic proportions, Apple’s EU privacy garden just sprouted a backdoor for sneaky trackers. Thanks to a “unique” take on the browser, your digital footprints might as well be neon signs. #ApplePrivacyOopsie

Hot Take:

Apple’s latest move to comply with EU laws is like throwing a “Come at me, bro!” invite to cyber miscreants everywhere. EU users can now frolic through digital fields of third-party app stores, but it seems Apple forgot to shut the gate on privacy! It’s like they’ve built a shiny new bridge for users to cross over to the land of app freedom, only to realize that trolls (read: malicious trackers) have set up camp underneath.

Key Points:

  • Apple’s EU compliance allows users to download apps from non-App Store sources, but with “catastrophic” privacy implications.
  • Researchers Talal Haj Bakry and Tommy Mysk highlight potential tracking by malicious marketplaces.
  • iOS 17.4 introduces a URI scheme that unintentionally facilitates cross-site user tracking.
  • The primary issue is with Safari, which doesn’t safeguard against this tracking vulnerability.
  • The researchers offer solutions to this oversight, which you can read about in their full blog post.

Need to know more?

Apple's Unwalled Garden of Eden

Once upon a time in a land far, far away (the EU), there was a "walled garden" so secure, even the bravest knights (third-party app stores) couldn't breach its defenses. But lo and behold, the mighty rulers of the land (the EU legislators) decreed that the walls must come down! With the release of iOS 17.4, Apple has introduced a new way for users to install apps from the digital wilds, but in doing so, they've accidentally laid out a welcome mat for cross-site trackers.

Marketplace Mayhem

The newly introduced scheme is like a secret handshake that allows websites to request app installations through Safari. Unfortunately, this secret is as well kept as a teenager's diary. The researchers found that during this process, a unique client_id is sent to the marketplace's back-end, which can then be used to follow users across different websites. Oops! Looks like Apple's browser, Safari, forgot to bring its shield to the privacy battle.

A Puzzling Oversight

Our cybersecurity sleuths, Haj Bakry and Mysk, are scratching their heads as to why Apple's engineers might have left such a gaping hole in their otherwise impenetrable armor. It's like finding out your fortress has a backdoor that not only did you not know about, it's been propped open with a welcome sign. Safari, long hailed as a protector against cross-site tracking, seems to have taken a day off without telling anyone.

Solutions on the Horizon?

But fear not, for our intrepid researchers are not just doom-bringers; they come bearing solutions. They suggest alternative approaches that could help Apple fix this privacy faux pas. It's like they've handed Apple a map to navigate out of this potential privacy quagmire. Will Apple follow the path or continue to play hopscotch on the edge of the privacy abyss? Only time will tell.

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Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go update my own digital defenses. It seems there's a whole new world of app marketplaces to explore, and I don't fancy being followed by a horde of digital trackers eager to know my every move. Happy (and safe) app hunting, EU residents!

Tags: Alternative app marketplaces, Apple privacy flaw, cross-site tracking protection, EU Digital Markets Act, MarketplaceKit process, Safari tracking vulnerability, URI scheme security