Apple officially bans third-party iPhone data collection

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Apple has updated the terms of its iPhone Developer Program License Agreement to effectively block third-party analytics firms from collecting iPhone application user or device data. Section 3.3.9 of Apple's developer agreement, revised in conjunction with the release of the new iOS 4 operating system update, now reads "You and Your Applications may not collect, use, or disclose to any third party, user or device data without prior user consent, and then only under the following conditions:

  • "The collection, use or disclosure is necessary in order to provide a service or function that is directly relevant to the use of the Application. For example, without Apple's prior written consent, You may not use third party analytics software in Your Application to collect and send device data to a third party for aggregation, processing, or analysis.
  • "The collection, use or disclosure is for the purpose of serving advertising to Your Application; is provided to an independent advertising service provider whose primary business is serving mobile ads (for example, 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 would not qualify as independent); and the disclosure is limited to UDID, user location data, and other data specifically designated by Apple as available for advertising purposes."

The revised developer agreement could pose enormous challenges for mobile advertising networks like AdMob, recently acquired by Apple rival Google for $750 million. The updated language appears to suggest companies like AdMob will be unable to continue sharing advertising analytics data with marketers, significantly undermining the value of its ad services. Independent mobile ad firms like Millennial Media and Greystripe would appear to be unaffected by the license revision, although the agreement suggests they must secure Apple's consent to continue collecting app data.

Apple plans to introduce its own iAd mobile advertising network on July 1. According to Apple CEO Steve Jobs, iAd sales are already at $60 million--developers will earn 60 percent of all iAd revenues, translating to pre-launch earnings of $36 million. Brands including Nissan, Citi, Unilever, AT&T, Sears, Target, JC Penney and Best Buy have so far signed on.

For more on Apple's developer license changes:
- read this Wall Street Journal article

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