Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Apple: Here’s How to Opt Out of Our Targeted Ads (But Not Our Location Tracking)

Apple is rolling out its new iPhone operating system, which means that it is also rolling out its new iAd platform. Which means that Apple now has to make its users the same offer that other big digital ad players offer: You can opt-out of our ad targeting program, if you’re willing to do a little work.

In the case of Apple (AAPL), that means reading the new 45-page privacy policy that comes with the iOS 4 update and finding the section about cookies.

Actually, you don’t have to do that–iLounge already highlighted it for us:

Apple and its partners use cookies and other technologies in mobile advertising services to control the number of times you see a given ad, deliver ads that relate to your interests, and measure the effectiveness of ad campaigns. If you do not want to receive ads with this level of relevance on your mobile device, you can opt out by accessing the following link on your device: If you opt out, you will continue to receive the same number of mobile ads, but they may be less relevant because they will not be based on your interests. You may still see ads related to the content on a web page or in an application or based on other non-personal information. This opt-out applies only to Apple advertising services and does not affect interest-based advertising from other advertising networks.

So that’s pretty much the same tack that Google (GOOG), Yahoo (YHOO) and other big Web ad players (not Facebook, though) have taken to ad targeting and privacy: If you don’t want to see targeted ads, you don’t have to see targeted ads. But you’re still going to see ads. And figuring out how to opt out of targeting will take a little bit of doing (here are the opt-out pages for Google and Yahoo, which they describe as ad “managers”).

Note that this deals only with Apple’s homegrown ad network, not third-party outfits like Medialets or Millenial Media. Then again, Apple isn’t giving the biggest mobile ad network, Google’s AdMob, access to targeting data at all.

As others have noted, Apple’s same privacy policy doesn’t give iPhone users any choice when it comes to location data on their phones–it is tracking their location and reserves the right to share it with “partners and licensees.”

Whether or not that creeps you out likely depends on your attitude toward services like Facebook, Foursquare and Twitter: If you spend your time broadcasting your status to the world, it’s hard to get riled up about Apple keeping tabs on you, too.

But if you’re a private soul, Apple offers this promise: “This location data is collected anonymously in a form that does not personally identify you and is used by Apple and our partners and licensees to provide and improve location-based products and services.”

Feel better? Okay, how about this–Steve Jobs at D8, promising to protect users’ privacy:

We’ve always had a very different view of privacy than some of our colleagues in the Valley. We take privacy extremely seriously. That’s one of the reasons we have the curated apps store. We have rejected a lot of apps that want to take a lot of your personal data and suck it up into the cloud.

Privacy means people know what they’re signing up for. In plain English, and repeatedly, that’s what it means. Ask them. Ask them every time. Make them tell you to stop asking if they get tired of your asking them. Let them know precisely what you’re going to do with their data.

That’s a pretty straightforward, simple proposition, much more so than Apple’s confusing legalese. If Apple really wants to appease privacy worriers, the company ought to update its policy with words that sound like the ones Jobs spoke earlier this month.

Latest Video

View all videos »

Search »

I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik