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Apple to release new app-tracking tool for developers

Apple has reportedly come up with a way to let app developers track who uses their apps without running afoul of privacy protections.

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, Apple plans to release "a new way" for developers to keep tabs on app activity. Exact details on what this plan entails are unknown, but Apple might provide a sneak peek at next week's Worldwide Developer Conference, where iOS 6 appears to be on the agenda.

The Journal, however, did say that the upgraded system will likely make data anonymous and not rely on information that could be tied back to a specific iPhone or iPad.

At issue are Unique Device Identifiers (UDID), a 40-character-long string tied to each and every iOS device. UDIDs made headlines last year amidst reports that apps were collecting personal information about users without permission. Several lawsuits followed, all of which pointed to these UDIDs as a means for developers to secretly collect data and serve up targeted ads.

By August, there were reports that Apple would phase out the use of UDIDs in iOS 5, and in March, TechCrunch said Cupertino was starting to reject apps that accessed a device's UDID in any way. But as the Journal pointed out today, Apple has not been too aggressive in sniffing out UDID-hungry apps.

App developers, however, are still worried. If they don't charge for their apps outright, all their revenue comes from ads, and without data about how best to serve up those ads, they're going in blind. This new system currently under development will reportedly address that issue while not invading a user's privacy, the Journal said.