Apple Starts Cracking Down On Apps That Don’t Show Ads (But Do Track Users)

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Apple is starting to crack down on apps that request a user’s unique advertising identifier, but not actually show any ads within the app… and Apple may be doing it to put its own iAd network on better competitive footing.

Here’s the deal. Most apps that shows ads track users using a unique identifier called a Identifier for Advertisers, or IDFA. They way ad networks sell ads is by counting up how many unique IDFAs they have for any given app — in other words, the number of people who have installed the app and opened it once — and then charge would-be advertisers according to how many unique IDFAs they claim to have.

So far, so good. But some app developers are using the IDFA to track users for non-advertising purposes, while other ad networks might be counting IDFAs coming from non-ad-serving apps to inflate how much they can charge clients for apps that do show ads. So after warning developers several times last year to stop using IDFAs unless you are actually showing ads, Apple’s now starting to crack down.

Here’s the relevant wording of Apple’s Developer Guidelines, Clause 3.31:

You and Your Applications (and any third party with whom you have contracted to serve advertising) may use the Advertising Identifier, and any information obtained through the use of the Advertising Identifier, only for the purpose of serving advertising. If a user resets the Advertising Identifier, then You agree not to combine, correlate, link or otherwise associate, either directly or indirectly, the prior Advertising Identifier and any derived information with the reset Advertising Identifier.

Some developers are speculating that Apple is trying to puts its own iAd network in a better place of competition, where as Tapstream thinks Apple wants advertisers to switch from charging ad rates based on installed users, and start charging when a user actually chooses to interact with that ad, or ‘click’ it.

As a side effect, this will push ad networks to a Cost Per Click (CPC) model and away from CPI – which is worse for the advertisers. (Publishers generally already get paid per click, ahem tap, or impression). Of course, it helps that Apple’s own ad network, iAd, is not affected by these restrictions. Advertisers who want to preserve their ability to run CPI campaigns may try to work around the new restrictions by adding a small amount of advertising to their app, but whether this will mollify Apple is unclear.

Apple hasn’t released a clear statement on the change yet. We’ll keep you posted.

  • misteroo

    We pushed out a potential alternative fixing this situation on Github. We re gathering interesting from some industry players to contribute

    http://openIDFA.org

    Ouriel Ohayon
    Appsfire.com

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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