Apple backs off mobile tracking

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Apple has discouraged mobile app developers from using a feature that enables mobile ad networks to target ads, according to TechCrunch's Erick Shonfeld. He reported late Friday that Apple has told developers working with a beta version of the next iOS iteration that the company plans to close access to devices' Unique Device Identifier.

The Unique Device Identifier feature enables mobile app developers and publishers, as well as mobile ad networks, to track a consumer's behavior among multiple apps. Apple told developers that they can create their own IDs for their apps, “which means they may have to throw all of their historical user data out the window and start from scratch,” said Schonfeld.

Schonfeld questioned whether Apple would continue using UDIDs for its iAds product, but The Wall Street Journal's Yukari Iwatani Kane cited sources saying that Apple doesn't use UDIDs to track consumers' behavior for its iAds.

“Instead the service targets ads based largely on the types of songs, videos and apps users download through its App Store and iTunes music service,” Kane said.

Apple's decision would certainly be a blow to mobile ad networks looking to bring online behavioral targeting to in-app mobile ads, but I'm not sure how many ad networks use that strategy.

A few months back, I spoke with Tony Nethercutt, general manager of Mojiva's North America business and formerly Admob's VP of sales, about in-app advertising. He said that neither Mojiva nor Admob target mobile ads according to consumers' behavior.

“Behavioral targeting requires a different level of parameters that we just don't think at the moment have scale, so we're trying to do things that have greatest scale,” he said.

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