Apple's newest operating system, iOS6, set for release next Wednesday, will replace unique device identifiers with a new type of tracking mechanism, 9to5Mac reports.
Unlike UDIDs -- 40-character alphanumeric strings -- the new so-called "advertising identifiers" won't be permanent, according to 9to5Mac. Apple also intends to offer users its version of do-not-track -- a setting marked "limit ad tracking." When that setting is activated, advertisers won't be allowed to collect data that can be used to serve behaviorally targeted ads.
The company says that in the future, all ad networks will be required to use the new identifiers, according to 9to5mac.
Privacy advocates generally seemed to welcome the news, though it's not yet clear how Apple intends to insure that ad networks stop collecting data for behavioral targeting purposes if the "limit ad tracking" setting is activated. Given some ad networks' history of gathering data through any means possible -- including techniques like history sniffing, or setting hard-to-delete supercookies -- it would be surprising if companies didn't find workarounds.
Still, the new identifier could help stem some criticism of Apple for having ever allowed outside companies to access UDIDs. Those complaints date to 2010, when researchers reported that many popular app developers were tracking users via their UDIDs. Within months Apple was hit with a string of potential class-action lawsuits alleging that it violated users' privacy by allowing developers to access device identifiers.
Last week, Apple came under renewed pressure on the issue when Anti-Sec -- an offshoot of hacker collective Anonymous -- publicly released 1 million UDIDs. The group claimed the UDIDs came from the FBI, but they were later traced to the company Blue Toad.