How (& Why) to Reset the Advertising Identifier in iOS

Feb 1, 2013 - 9 Comments

Reset the Advertising Identifier in iOS

From iOS 6.1 onward, users can now reset the Advertising Identifier on any iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. This means you can basically throw all the anonymously gathered data about a device that is used to serve relevant ads out the window and start fresh, thereby removing any of the targeted data that has been accumulated and assigned to that Advertising ID.

  • Open “Settings” then choose “General” followed by “About”
  • Scroll all the way down and locate “Advertising”, from there tap on “Reset Advertising Identifier” and confirm the ID reset

Once confirmed, iOS will regenerate a new random blank ID.

Reset the ad tracking ID in iOS

You can also go the extra mile and turn iOS ad tracking off completely while you’re at that settings screen, which functions like a “Do Not Track” feature and prevents any of anonymous data accumulation from happening. What that will do is completely deny the ability for anonymous data to be gathered about the device to serve more relevant ads, outside of web cookies. For example if you have every Angry Birds app installed on the device and do 100 web searches for Angry Birds a day, disabling ad tracking would prevent you from seeing ads relevant to that topic.

Reasons why you might want to reset the Advertising Identifier

Keeping in mind that all of the accumulated data is anonymous, there isn’t some universally important reason to reset the Ad ID and by no means should it be considered standard procedure. Because the data is anonymized, the reasons to reset the ID tend to be fairly unique situations:

  • The ads you are being served are tied to past activities that are no longer relevant to your interests
  • You or your employer are particularly sensitive about privacy
  • Your iOS device is company owned, and you don’t want IT to (potentially) discover that you’re searching the web for things unrelated to work by having ads for unrelated stuff show up on the device
  • You are transferring an iOS device to a new owner or family member, and you don’t want to go all out and reset to factory settings for some reason

Of course there are other reasons as well, but again it’s important to stress this isn’t some super important thing to think about for 99.5% of iOS users.

For some historical background, the Advertising Identifier is a relatively new creation, and previously advertisers tracked anonymous data by the actual device UDID. Because the UDID is tied to hardware and not possible to reset, Apple created the Advertising ID as an alternative to the UDID, one which can be freely reset and directly controlled by the user much like cookies and browser history can be managed at any time.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in iPad, iPhone, Tips & Tricks

9 Comments

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  1. JMJDave says:

    Another reason might be if you have very weak willpower and you’re afraid you won’t be able to resist all those targeted ads! ;-)

  2. mr white says:

    Another reason is you simply do not want to be tracked for any reason just because you do not. I have never been sold anything on an ad and the advertisers will get no usable data from me. More people should do this. A better solution would be ad blocking, but I doubt Apple will allow that.

  3. Gary M says:

    So does the ON setting mean that it is blocking tracking or does OFF mean it is blocking tracking?

  4. derf says:

    The ON setting means that it is blocking tracking.

  5. John says:

    “Limiting”, not blocking.

    Also, Mr. White, don’t be so paranoid. If you feel you don’t want to be ad tracked just because you do not, then you probably don’t really understand how it works.

    • Scott says:

      If we all understood how it works we wouldn’t be searching for answers. If I want the most privacy and security shout it be in the on or off position?!!!

  6. Rich Merritt says:

    Although the ad tracking features are anonymous, the ID can easily be used to associate activities with a person’s name. That’s a great reason to clear it, and cookies as well.

  7. Terry Gifford says:

    That’s right. Although the identifier is anonymous by itself, it is easy for an app developer to attach it to your name by asking you to log in. for example, Google maps now really wants you to log in to Google, which allows them to tie the advertising identifier to your personal Google account. Suddenly that “anonymous” identifier is known to both Google and potentially it’s suppliers and partners and customers – basically anyone in the world. And they know your location and have access to your address book (assuming you use Google Maps like most people do)

    In short, since Apple created this ability, vendors like Google have worked hard to make it irrelevant by getting your personal information through other means.

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