The idea behind mobile tracking is basically similar to its use in the online community. Particularly, a user will want to obtain an identifier that can work across various platforms, and if the identifier has a shorter life span, you will have to tie it to a certain domain that helps specific identifiers gain better persistence. However, as typical in the mobile world, you may experience a few challenges.
This article aims to describe several techniques implemented in mobile tracking. It also highlights the variations within the online world. Having the ability to distinguish and monitor users is one of the things that are undertaken by a few entities when it comes to delivering mobile advertisements. In short, it is assumed in this blog that the advertisement comes from the ad networks who are also doing the tracking.
However, this does not suggest that ad networks implement techniques that are not familiar to others involved in the delivery chain. Furthermore, because of some issues that consumers encounter whenever they pass their privacy preferences to different groups in the mobile advertising industry, these entities (generally ad networks) do not need to implement consumer identification with behavioral analysis, which might then limit its use for distinct user calculation, or promotion frequency capping.
Applications and Mobile Web
The principal issue many people face with mobile ad networks is that they offer advertisements to users while they are accessing the content either through mobile websites or apps. On mobile handsets, apps and websites are distinct domains, existing in different sandboxes, using different identifiers. This means that for the ad network, one user may appear to be one or more distinct consumers unless the ad network takes action and try to connect the various identities.
With mobile applications, developers are implementing operating system (OS) identifier to distinctly identify the user. Concentrating on the two most widely used mobile platforms iOS and Android, the identifiers are the UDID and Android_ID respectively. The Android OS allows other types of system identifiers, which include the subscriber identifier (IMSI from the SIM) for android phone devices, the WLAN MAC address for the WiFi capable devices (MAC address is also accessible on iOS), and the equipment identifier (IMEI, MEID or ESN which depends on the cellular technology being used by the customer).
Utilizing identifiers that are OS based has been favorable for the existing ad networks because of the similar value that will be passed without having to pay particular attention to the publisher who created the app. As a result, the ad network is able to monitor the customer across different apps.
This technique, along with the fact that users have minimum control over the outcome, had pushed Apple to disapprove UDID in iOS5. This disapproval does not mean that the OS will be done away with, in fact it is still made available to consumers, ad networks and developers. However, this means that should they stop using it, there is a possibility that the Apple company might stop making it usable in future versions of the iOS.