New Terms in iPhone Developer Agreements Threaten 3rd Party Analytics and Ad Aggregators

The anomaly that is Apple just threw down another challenge to third-party application developers who look to mobile advertisements as the ultimate source of sustainability. Terms and conditions in the newly updated iPhone Developer Program License Agreement (which has been revised in conjunction with the release of iOS 4) starts with the wording that developers "may not collect, use, or disclose to any third party, user or device data without prior user consent" and then adds further strictures which, in the most damning case for many of the aspiring analytics providers, prohibit release for the purposes of "aggregation, processing, or analysis".

While the change in wording appears to be a broad prohibition against third-party analytics, it is most commonly seen as a direct attack on AdMob, the mobile advertising services company recently purchased by Google. Apple will only let developers release user information to a third-party only if it is "an independent advertising service provider whose primary business is serving mobile ads." In other words, not an affiliate of the largest provider of sponsored search services on the planet. To turn the knife a bit, or perhaps to provide transparency, Apple provides examples of the sorts of third-parties that are not, by their nature, "independent", saying explicitly that "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."

If you take as a given that advertisers are often the companies with whom mobile subscribers want to carry out business, this is not an empowering move. Apple apparently doesn't think that it is in the iPhone user's interest to share data with third-parties even if the user consents to it, especially if release of such data might benefit Google, Microsoft, Nokia or dozens of other firms that pose direct threats to Apple's vain efforts for smartphone primacy.

Clearly, there will be work-arounds and arrangements to be made in the name of providing relevant messages (promotional, social, realtime or other) to Apple's mobile customers. Still, the message is clear. None of this will take place without prior consent from both Apple on behalf of its iOS-based device users.