US regulators considering investigation into Apple’s mobile advertising policy

Earlier today we reported that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) had amended its iPhone Developer Agreement, specifically clause 3.3.9 related to advertising networks. The amendment was written in such a way that it allowed Steve Jobs to make good on a promise he made at D8 to open up the SDK for third parties to collect data for services such as advertising. But at the same time it was worded very carefully so as to exclude Google’s AdMob mobile advertising network from the iPhone eco-system.

This was met yesterday with lots of grumbling from Google, and gnashing of teeth from Admob’s CEO. Whilst the wording of the clause excludes any rival smart phone maker, Google is the only real threat on the horizon that Apple probably cares about right now.

Wired make an interesting point about why Apple should block AdMob from collecting data from Apple devices:

If Apple were to allow Google to track user data within ads, Google would, by definition, gain insight into how people are interacting with advertising elements within iOS apps, and would be able to use that information to inform the process of building AdMob ads into its own Android platform.

But then again, I am sure Google could research information of that flavour in other ways if they really needed it. Still that argument might convince a government investigation of Apple’s reasons for its current strategy in this situation.

The Financial Times is reporting today that those same “sources close to the government” they quoted last time are sure that the FTC are still actively interested in all this. And that they may have moved their plans forward with regards to an investigation into Apple and Google.

According to two people close to the situation, US regulators have already taken an interest in Apple’s actions, though it is not yet clear whether it will be left to the Federal Trade Commission, which carried out the recent Google investigation, or the Department of Justice to take an investigation forward.

Apple’s latest rules for developers who create apps for its devices limit the situations in which they can send approved information about their apps’ audiences to advertising services. The information cannot be sent to advertising networks that are affiliated with companies developing or distributing mobile devices or operating systems – a definition that effectively excludes Apple rivals like Google and Microsoft.

Do you think Apple’s actions are “just business”, or unfair to Google? Let us know in the comments.

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