New Research Across 200 iOS Apps Hints that Surveillance Marketing is Still Going Strong

If you work in advertising or marketing, you’re probably aware of Apple’s privacy efforts over the last year. Apple now requires apps ask customers if they want to 'opt-in' to allow behavioral data tracking. If you’re an Apple customer, you may also think you have control over which apps are tracking you around the internet.

Or do you? We did some research to find out if perceptions match reality. iOS Apps Potential Internet Tracker Research when Permission to Track is not Granted

The release of iOS 15.2 introduced a new Record App Activity feature that lets you see which apps communicate to various networks. Sometimes these contacts are to the app’s own domain, but more often these contacts are to third-party domains, and it’s not clear what data is being shared.

We used this new privacy feature to take a snapshot of network connections across 200 apps and 20 different app categories. Our goal was to glean some insight into where the industry is at this moment when it comes to tracking consumers around the internet while also trying to move to a non-PII framework.

Key Findings

Our research found the average app contacts 15 domains, with 12 of those being to unfamiliar third-party domains (roughly 80%). Each app was downloaded and opened only once without registering for the service to understand the starting set of connections.

The results raise important questions about the alignment of consumer perceptions and potential behavioral tracking still taking place when permission to track is not granted.

iOS App Network Connection Research
iOS Potential App Trackers Seen with App Activity Recorder

Why it Matters


Observations by Category

Books Apps


Business Apps


Education Apps


Entertainment Apps


Finance Apps


Food & Drink Apps


Games Apps


Health & Fitness Apps


Lifestyle Apps


Magazines & Newspaper Apps


Medical Apps


Music Apps


Navigation Apps


News Apps


Productivity Apps


Shopping Apps


Social Media Apps


Sports Apps


Travel Apps


Utilities Apps


Methodology


Third-Party Domains

We found over 1,100 domains contacted by iOS apps in our research. Here are the 100 most frequently contacted third-party domains.

Domain ContactedContact Count
inappcheck.itunes.apple.com132
firebaseinstallations.googleapis.com99
firebase-settings.crashlytics.com86
app-measurement.com77
ca.iadsdk.apple.com63
graph.facebook.com51
firebaseremoteconfig.googleapis.com46
itunes.apple.com41
scontent-ort2-1.xx.fbcdn.net39
firebaselogging-pa.googleapis.com39
device-provisioning.googleapis.com38
fcmtoken.googleapis.com35
dpm.demdex.net32
clients3.google.com28
assets.adobedtm.com28
api2.branch.io27
cdn.branch.io27
play.googleapis.com23
firebasedynamiclinks.googleapis.com22
skadsdk.appsflyer.com22
conversions.appsflyer.com20
mobile-collector.newrelic.com20
sb.scorecardresearch.com18
ssl.google-analytics.com18
attr.appsflyer.com18
googleads.g.doubleclick.net17
gcdsdk.appsflyer.com16
remote-data.urbanairship.com14
www.googletagmanager.com14
r3.0.lencr.org14
mobile-data.onetrust.io13
device-api.urbanairship.com13
combine.urbanairship.com13
ocsp.pki.goog13
kvinit-prod.api.kochava.com12
c.amazon-adsystem.com12
ocsp.sectigo.com12
app.adjust.com11
c00.adobe.com10
launches.appsflyer.com10
mads.amazon-adsystem.com10
s.amazon-adsystem.com10
analytics.localytics.com10
cdn.optimizely.com9
cdn.cookielaw.org9
www.gstatic.com9
www.google.com9
ocsp.digicert.com9
www.googleapis.com9
manifest.localytics.com9
tpc.googlesyndication.com9
nativesdks.mparticle.com8
cdn-settings.segment.com8
identity.mparticle.com8
control.kochava.com8
config2.mparticle.com8
sessions.bugsnag.com8
amp-api.apps.apple.com7
optanon.blob.core.windows.net7
www.googletagservices.com7
braze-images.com7
sdk.iad-03.braze.com7
www.google-analytics.com7
sdk.iad-01.braze.com7
px-conf.perimeterx.net6
api.apptentive.com6
sdk-assets.localytics.com6
api.mixpanel.com6
pubads.g.doubleclick.net6
s3.amazonaws.com6
z.moatads.com6
fonts.googleapis.com6
fonts.gstatic.com6
lh3.googleusercontent.com6
oauthaccountmanager.googleapis.com6
api.segment.io6
www.paypalobjects.com5
firebaseinappmessaging.googleapis.com5
skadsdkless.appsflyer.com5
m.media-amazon.com5
appboy-images.com5
msh.amazon.com5
ild.googleapis.com5
api-adservices.apple.com5
sp.auth.adobe.com5
web.facebook.com5
device-metrics-us-2.amazon.com5
images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com5
config.emb-api.com4
data.emb-api.com4
profile.localytics.com4
sentry.io4
api.snapkit.com4
logx.optimizely.com4
mcias-va7.cloud.adobe.io4
gsp-ssl.ls.apple.com4
fls-na.amazon.com4
arcus-uswest.amazon.com4
unagi.amazon.com4


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