Developers Can Now Target App Users Even After They Delete Their Apps

Donna Miller
October 23, 2018

Google says this should benefit both users and developer as users will now have access to more secure software without needing to download it first, and developers because they can now reach a larger user base.

Companies like MoEngage, Localytics, and CleverTap offer these "Uninstall tracking" services to app developers. And then companies like T-Mobile and Spotify uses these services to win back its consumers. Plenty of smaller developers are also following uninstallations because it's a clear signal that someone could be a good target for advertising.

It's no coincidence if you encounter ads of apps which you uninstalled a long time ago.

Think back, and you might recall being the target of uninstall tracking.

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Uninstall tracking exploits a core element of Apple Inc.'s and Google's mobile operating systems: push notifications. Yes, the same functionality that brings you new Tweets and emails could also help developers stalk you.

Either way, it seems to violate user expectations that apps will cease their tracking once they're off the phone, even if the loophole does just deliver software companies one last piece of information. Of course, to do that, the app needs to use some of your mobile data, but it appears something can trigger within it and cause an excessive amount of data being used.

No action is needed by developers or your users. This is where things get stalker-ish. "It's just generally sketchy to track people around the internet after they've opted out of using your product", he says, adding that he expects Apple and Google to crack down on the practice soon. Developers have always been able to use so-called silent push notifications to ping installed apps at regular intervals without alerting the user-to refresh an inbox or social media feed while the app is running in the background, for example.

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