Apple was very clear in it’s statement of intent about iAds and iPhone OS 4.0. The company stated that it would not prevent third-parties from providing advert services to developers creating apps for it’s platform.
However, taking a closer look at the new iPhone Developer Contract, there is another clause that is causing some consternation for advertising firms like AdMob, Analytics companies such as Flurry, and even individual app developers who like to analyse their customers gaming habits to provide a “better gaming experience”.
The crucial part of Section 3.3.9 of Apple’s new developers agreement states the following :
The use of third-party software in Your Application to collect and send Device Data to a third party for processing or analysis is expressly prohibited.
There are many ways to interpret this.
Firstly, if you are collecting your own analytics and not sending it to another party then you seem to be in the clear. This would be my interpretation anyway. Further subsections of the clause do state that you need to let your customers know about data you are collecting. But then this is fairly standard fare in a world where we are supposed to respect our customers privacy; something Apple takes very seriously.
Getting into the nuts and bolts of the wording a little further we need to figure out what “Device Data” means. Is this referring to an iPhone’s specifications and information such as it’s UDID (a unique identifier each iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad has)? Or is it also referring to any data generated by your app?
Either way it can be seen as giving iAds a competitive advantage over the likes of AdMob, and also hobbling analytics companies like Flurry and Distimo; who offer plugins as well as direct monitoring for developers so they can track app usage, as well as allow them to create wide ranging industry reports on app sales and usage for general consumption. In Distimo’s case they actually hook directly into your Developer Account at Apple. I would have to wonder how this is affected, if at all, by this clause – as your device is not sending any data back to them in that scenario.
In simple terms what this clause could mean is that AdMob may potentially not be able to produce targeted ads, whereas Apple’s own iAds would be able to. It could also mean that any analytics data that other companies might like to collate for general consumption, or on the app developers behalf, would not be as fine grained as it has been able to be in the past.
Peter Farago, who runs marketing for Flurry, has said that they are still trying to interpret exactly what the clause means, but feels that there will be a way to work with Apple moving forward. I would tend to agree with that analysis.
Apple, as they have done with 3.3.1, has set a base line they can fall back to in any disagreement with another party. How, and when they actually enforce the strict wording of this contract is entirely up to them.
Flurry goes on to say :
It’s too early to tell. No one’s freaking out. There’s more to understand about it, and we’re dialoguing with Apple about it, but it looks we may have to modify the way we collect and distribute information.
Do you feel that some of these companies have been too free and easy with your personal data in the past? Or do you think Apple is simply trying to unfairly crush any and all competition?
Let us know in the comments.