Apple denying iPhone apps that use location framework for targeted ads

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
Apple this week notified iPhone developers that they cannot use the device's GPS data to serve location-aware advertisements to users of App Store software.



In an update to the "News and Announcements for iPhone Developers" RSS feed, Apple included a tip on the "Core Location" framework included in the iPhone OS software development kit. Using the GPS in the iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS, developers can determine the current location of users -- but only if the data is used to provide "beneficial information."



"If your app uses location-based information primarily to enable mobile advertisers to deliver targeted ads based on a user's location, your app will be returned to you by the App Store Review Team for modification before it can be posted to the App Store," the update reads.



Last year, after Apple showed interest in mobile advertising firm AdMob, the company was instead bought by rival Google. Apple later purchased mobile advertising firm Quattro Wireless, and intends to allow developers to easily integrate its own advertising solutions into App Store software.



Apple's newly publicized policy on GPS data usage has led to some speculation that the company could retain location-aware advertising for its own, giving the iPhone maker a significant advantage over competitors like AdMob and Google. However, Apple has yet to formally roll out its own integrated advertising solutions, so whether location-based targeted ads would be a part of the network is unknown.



Apple has shown interest in expanding location-based services on the iPhone. One patent application described a dynamic home screen that would display specific applications automatically populated based on factors like the current location of the phone. For example, when traveling in San Francisco, a specific "San Francisco" icon could appear on the screen, and give users easy access to local weather, time, maps and contacts.



In addition, this week a new patent application described a system for easily sharing a user's current location with a contact in-call. Such a system would use the GPS data from an iPhone to allow two parties to efficiently meet one another.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 35
    I suspect they want it for themselves. Want some reason to bring people to Apple Ads I suspect.
  • Reply 2 of 35
    ivan.rnn01ivan.rnn01 Posts: 1,822member
    Oh, the bunch of noobs --- probably paid either by Nokia or by Google --- are perfectly capable of making orgies on TV even about location-aware home screens.



    P.S. Ah, that's admob. Then it's GOOG for sure.
  • Reply 3 of 35
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Damn_Its_Hot View Post


    I suspect they want it for themselves. Want some reason to bring people to Apple Ads I suspect.



    I had the same thoughts, but then read their official statement again.

    Not sure if I'm right, but it sounds to me like:



    "When the sole functionality of your app is collecting user data in order to deliver ads, then we do not like it. Please provide additional useful functionality."



    That said they can't make money of this type of apps/ads themselves in the future without getting trouble.
  • Reply 4 of 35
    I want to point out the word "primarily" in the sentence "If your app uses location-based information primarily to enable mobile advertisers..."



    What I get from reading this is that the main function of an app should not be to serve location-based ads. Which means that if serving location-based ads is not the main function of the app, then it is OK. Far from what the title suggests.
  • Reply 5 of 35
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by DominoXML View Post


    I had the same thoughts, but then read their official statement again.

    Not sure if I'm right, but it sounds to me like:



    "When the sole functionality of your app is collecting user data in order to deliver ads, then we do not like it. Please provide additional useful functionality."



    That said they can't make money of this type of apps/ads themselves in the future without getting trouble.



    Which is a good thing, considering a developer could easily disguise an app as something similar to the "Around Me" app, but instead of info load it with ads ads ads ads. Effectively you pay to see ads, and nothing more, until you can't tolerate it any longer.



    Trying to prevent that is another mark on the Pro side of Apple's "totalitarian" App Store.
  • Reply 6 of 35
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by yonoleo View Post


    What I get from reading this is that the main function of an app should not be to serve location-based ads. Which means that if serving location-based ads is not the main function of the app, then it is OK. Far from what the title suggests.



    Who makes an app to primarily serve advertising? You do raise an interesting point though. What happens if you have a free GPS app with advertising? As the main purpose of the app is to give a long/lat position, could it also use that information to target ads?



    The Maps app already does this in a sense. Use the GPS to find where you are, then search something like pub. The results are effectively ads, even if they're not being monopolised.
  • Reply 7 of 35
    I always wondered why some apps that have nothing to do with location ask to use the GPS (I'm looking at YOU "Hottest Apps"). Now I know why.



    I'm glad I denied them access all those times. It's a slimey thing to do. This is a good move on Apple's part to protect privacy. Hopefully it doesn't turn into something nefarious like all of the speculators are speculating.
  • Reply 8 of 35
    mactrippermactripper Posts: 1,328member
    Quote:

    Apple this week notified iPhone developers that they cannot use the device's GPS data to serve location-aware advertisements to users of App Store software.





    Why do non-GPS needing Apps have access to GPS data?



    Bit of a privacy issue I would say.



    So I can place a "fart App" on the App Store, get some attention to it, have it downloaded by millions and then download all their address book contacts, recent calls, GPS data and anything else I might fancy?



    Heck, I can even update the software through my own to do other things, am I right or what?







    http://forums.appleinsider.com/showthread.php?t=106851
  • Reply 9 of 35
    sipsip Posts: 210member
    I don't wish to be served any ads, location-aware or otherwise, and I certainly would be selective about who should know where I am calling from, the exception being the emergency services (and maybe my wife!).



    I hope that if/when this feature is available, there is an ON/OFF switch so that I can choose whether to activate it or not.
  • Reply 10 of 35
    al_bundyal_bundy Posts: 1,525member
    since third party apps can't run in the background, some devs have coded apps to create dummy mail accounts to email location data every 15 minutes.



    Google made a big mistake with Android and competing with Apple. they could have bought AdMob and still been friends with Apple. But by entering the phone business they are forcing Apple to do it's own mobile advertising and will probably lose data from millions of iphone users as devs recode apps to use Quattro.



    Apple will just set up the OS 4 SDK to make Quatrro the default and anything else you will have to spend a lot of time doing custom code
  • Reply 11 of 35
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by al_bundy View Post


    since third party apps can't run in the background, some devs have coded apps to create dummy mail accounts to email location data every 15 minutes.



    And how does that work if the app isn't active to initiate the mail?
  • Reply 12 of 35
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by DominoXML View Post


    I had the same thoughts, but then read their official statement again.

    Not sure if I'm right, but it sounds to me like:



    "When the sole functionality of your app is collecting user data in order to deliver ads, then we do not like it. Please provide additional useful functionality."



    That said they can't make money of this type of apps/ads themselves in the future without getting trouble.



    I hope this is the case, but while I tend to give Apple the benefit of the doubt also, they are far from saintly in this regard.



    Lots of apps in the app store violate Apple's guidelines and it's not like Apple bothers to police it that much in reality. Try registering a complaint with Apple about an iPhone app that violates their own published guidelines and you will quickly discover three things:



    1) There is actually no mechanism in place for the user to complain about apps or point out to Apple when an app crosses the line.



    2) If you do manage to contact them you will be treated to several rounds of "please contact the developer it's nothing to do with us."



    3) Ultimately, they will stop answering your email and nothing will actually happen.



    So in fact "the rules" are sketchily enforced, and only enforced by the Apple reviewers themselves. If they miss something in the initial review process, it will stay missed forever irrespective of customer complaints, feedback etc. It's not like they are the Better Business Bureau or actually have an active program of checking up on things like this.
  • Reply 13 of 35
    al_bundyal_bundy Posts: 1,525member
    from what i read the email account on the iphone emails the app server the location data from GPS every 15 minutes. so when you open the app it has your recent location data.



    the app doesn't have to run in the background to report your location. i've also read that some developers have found ways to grab private and identifying information on iphone users for marketing purposes. Supposedly Apple knows about it but won't do anything because they are taking the Sony strategy. almost 15 years ago when the original playstation came out Sony flooded the market with games while Sega and Nintendo each had less games. Sega left the hardware business and Nintendo still makes a lot of money from it's own internally developed games. Same thing with the App store. Apple is flooding it with apps and turning a blind eye on some things.
  • Reply 14 of 35
    stuffestuffe Posts: 391member
    It's not the purpose of the App that is being talked about, it's quite clearly the use of Location Based Services within the app.



    If I write an App for cyclists showing trails and routes in my area using LBS, and also makes use of them to show me ads for shops and services nearby, that would be OK.



    If I write an App like a game or such that that uses LBS just for ads, then it's not.



    Then there's your grey area where I use LBS to put you in a "local high score table" of people within 20 miles etc, and also serve ads...
  • Reply 15 of 35
    So... who would accept a rebate in monthly service charges if they allowed their location to be sent to Apple on a regular basis who then 'push' targeted ads to you based on your location???
  • Reply 16 of 35
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post


    I hope this is the case, but while I tend to give Apple the benefit of the doubt also, they are far from saintly in this regard.



    Lots of apps in the app store violate Apple's guidelines and it's not like Apple bothers to police it that much in reality. Try registering a complaint with Apple about an iPhone app that violates their own published guidelines and you will quickly discover three things:



    1) There is actually no mechanism in place for the user to complain about apps or point out to Apple when an app crosses the line.



    2) If you do manage to contact them you will be treated to several rounds of "please contact the developer it's nothing to do with us."



    3) Ultimately, they will stop answering your email and nothing will actually happen.



    So in fact "the rules" are sketchily enforced, and only enforced by the Apple reviewers themselves. If they miss something in the initial review process, it will stay missed forever irrespective of customer complaints, feedback etc. It's not like they are the Better Business Bureau or actually have an active program of checking up on things like this.



    You are right. I think Apple is aware of e.g. privacy issues, but isn't able to provide a 100% equitable solution for this yet.



    I do a lot support for my software on my own. Believe me it's really hard to distinguish legitimate complains from those that are just ridiculous.

    One wrong or indiscreet word can spoil even good relationships.



    But for longterm success you'll have to be up to that job.
  • Reply 17 of 35
    Two reasons why Apple may have for this other than anti-competition:



    Apple is obsessed with battery life. The GPS uses a lot of power so using it to supply unwanted ads is not a good thing.



    Apple has always considered the use of GPS a privacy issue. That's why the first two times an app activates the GPS the user is asked if they want to allow it. In order to supply location aware ads to a user, the iPhone would have to supply the user's location to some third party ad provider and who knows what scary things they could do with that information? What if they got hacked by thieves that want to know when you are not home?
  • Reply 18 of 35
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by al_bundy View Post


    from what i read the email account on the iphone emails the app server the location data from GPS every 15 minutes. so when you open the app it has your recent location data.



    the app doesn't have to run in the background to report your location. i've also read that some developers have found ways to grab private and identifying information on iphone users for marketing purposes. Supposedly Apple knows about it but won't do anything because they are taking the Sony strategy. almost 15 years ago when the original playstation came out Sony flooded the market with games while Sega and Nintendo each had less games. Sega left the hardware business and Nintendo still makes a lot of money from it's own internally developed games. Same thing with the App store. Apple is flooding it with apps and turning a blind eye on some things.



    I don't think it's the "sony strategy". You might be right about the blind eye, but they are the first and sole company which dared to implement an approval process in this way.



    I have read a lot of complains about the approval process and some are really justified, but I also have the impression that they are willing to improve.



    Being first implies the lack of empirical values.
  • Reply 19 of 35
    wigginwiggin Posts: 2,264member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Damn_Its_Hot View Post


    I suspect they want it for themselves. Want some reason to bring people to Apple Ads I suspect.



    I think Apple would quickly come under scrutiny by regulators if they stick to this policy and then roll out their own location aware ad service that developers had to use if they wanted that type of functionality.



    They may simply be banning it for now until their own ad service is ready to deploy and the open it up to everyone. That would at least prevent Google from getting a head start.



    Either way, I'd consider it a turn for the worst. Apple has historically resisted letting ads interfer with the user experience (like all the adware crap that came pre-installed on Windows computers). The simple fact that Apple purchased an ad company in the first place bothers me.
  • Reply 20 of 35
    If an app is primarily giving ads, you can simply choose to not use it or uninstall it.



    Second, I rather have ads related to things around me than just general ads. From the comments, I see most of you rather see "find sexy singles online" rather than "Koji- the sexy new sushi place two blocks from where you are right now"



    If A* does allow location based ads on the own ad network, I really hope the DOJ gets involved. It's about time Apple's restrictions are put under the microscope.
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