NEWS5 July 2010

Report points to Apple back-track on app analytics rules

Data analytics North America

US— The confusion over Apple’s iPhone application developer rules continues – it now seems that the company is not enforcing restrictions on the sharing of app usage data with ad networks owned by major rivals.

Just days after the launch of Apple’s app-based advertising platform iAd the Wall Street Journal is reporting that applications are still being approved by Apple even when those apps have been enabled to serve targeted ads by third-party networks such as Google’s Adsense and AdMob.

This seems to contradict Apple’s stated position that only independent third-party ad networks would be permitted access to such data, and “an advertising service provider owned by or affiliated with a developer or distributor of mobile devices, mobile operating systems or development environments other than Apple” – i.e. Google – “would not qualify as independent”.

Apple has not commented on the report to explain the disparity, but there is speculation that it is softening its line in a bid to avoid the possibility of a full-scale investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, which is already holding an informal inquiry into claims that changes to Apple’s app developer rules could potentially restrict competition in the mobile advertising market.

Though Apple CEO Steve Jobs has publicly stated that the company is “not banning other advertisers from our platforms”, the rules as written would place certain competitors to its own iAd offering at a distinct disadvantage in using app usage and device data for targeting purposes and for post-campaign analysis.

Apple, for instance, is able to target ads to iPhone and iPad owners through their music, movie and TV genre interests thanks to the information it has access to through its ownership of the iTunes media store, as well as basic demographics, app preferences and location.

Meanwhile, at the back-end of an iAd campaign, Apple promises data on impressions, clicks and click-through rates, visits, page views and pages per visit, interactions with videos, images and other media, and conversions, downloads and social pass-alongs.