Back in January, a company called Flurry Analytics proudly proclaimed that it had information on unreleased Apple iOS devices thanks to data it collected through iTunes App Store software. It turns out that those devices were tracked by the analytics firm and were later discovered to be Apple iPads. In light of that news, Steve Jobs decided to shut out outside advertising agencies from collecting user data on iPhone OS, now iOS, in order to protect user privacy.
However, Jobs recently announced that outside advertisers may begin to start collecting user data after being granted permission by the user. The new policy states that apps “may not collect, use, or disclose to any third party, user or device data without prior user consent” along with a long laundry list of other conditions.
One of the conditions on collecting user data is that the agency gathering information may not be “an advertising service or provider owned or affiliated with a developer or distributor of mobile devices, mobile operating systems of development environments other than Apple would not qualify as independent.”
AdMob, which was recently acquired by Google, is likely going to be considered an agency affiliated with a developer/distributor of mobile devices and operating systems. Google did distribute the Nexus One through its own sales channel and is the developer of the Android operating system.
Under these conditions, AdMob and Google are screwed if they try to collect data from iOS device users – and those users and their info have proven to be very valuable in the mobile ad space. Another issue is that Apple says that only independent agencies may be allowed to collect user data, and AdMob isn’t independent as it has been acquired by Google. AdMob does argue, however, that such practices can lead to decreased innovation and progress.
Those involved are saying that the language in Apple’s new terms are gray and it’s hard to tell whether the new policies were designed to block competition, or whether user privacy is really what’s on the line here. What are your thoughts? How do you feel about opting into having your data collected by independent advertising agencies?
AdMob CEO Omar Hamoui has responded to Apple’s decision to shut out Google’s recently acquired advertising company:
These advertising related terms both target companies with competitive mobile technologies (such as Google), as well as any company whose primary business is not serving mobile ads. This change threatens to decrease – or even eliminate – revenue that helps to support tens of thousands of developers. The terms hurt both large and small developers by severely limiting their choice of how best to make money. And because advertising funds a huge number of free and low cost apps, these terms are bad for consumers as well.
Mobile ad firm Greystripe has also chimed in with their response to Apple’s new terms. We’re not too surprised to hear Greystripe Director of Marketing Dane Holewinski taking a different tack from AdMob on this story:
We are pleased that Apple’s new terms and conditions explicitly allow Greystripe, an independent ad network, to operate on the iPhone and iPad platforms. It confirms the value of 3rd party ad networks in enabling developers to earn great revenue with their applications.