Apple ousts in-app ad blocker from the App Store raising questions over its data-sharing plans

Been Choice, an ad blocker whose fortunes have reflected the attitude of the ever-evasive Apple towards in-app ad blocking, has confimed that it has (yet again) been ousted from the App Store, leaving questions over the iPhone manufacturer's policies on the matter.

Been Choice yesterday (11 Jan) circulated an email claiming that Apple has terminated its developer account, claiming the latest iteration of its app contravenes Section 3.2(f) of the Apple Developer Programme License Agreement, which requires that apps do "not interfere with Apple services, business practices, intended use of the App Store, B2B programme, etc."

Despite contacting Apple for additional comment on the reasons for the prorougation of its iOS developer status, the iPhone manufacturer has yet to respond formally on record. Although The Drum has since contacted Been Choice CEO Davie Yoon who has speculated that removal of his app - which let consumers earn points, or rewards, in return for letting ads through the ad blocker - may be an indication that it will launch a similar offering.

"We're puzzled by Apple but not surprised," he added. "We think they plan to be in the same space (a consent-driven data platform). And we think companies would be foolish not to be."

The Drum has contacted Apple's press office to request further clarification over the removal of Been Choice from the App Store, plus Yoon's speculation that it is eyeing a "consent-driven data platform ", but it was unable to respond by time of publication. It also has a track record of not commenting on such reports.

Earlier versions of Been Choice had been removed from the App Store for routing users through its own servers via a virtual private network (VPN), and some had speculated whether or not it was the app’s ability to block ads within Apple News, although this was not the case according to Yoon.

Instead, he said the earlier removal was around user privacy, but the additional updates to the store (which regained Been Choice a place on the App Store) are now deemed to have contravened the rules.

The Drum also consulted PageFair, an Ireland-based outfit also involved in the ad blocking space, with COO Johnny Ryan confirming Apple's earlier claims to have suspended some in-app ad blockers over privacy concerns, but he also added that it could also be a way for them to kick them out over their ability to block iAds.

Ryan also said: "What Apple has achieved is to enable third party developers to block competitors ads, on Mobile Safari, while its own ads remain immune. Apple's "iAds" are displayed in apps and on Apple News.

"Over time Apple's iAds will become the only viable channel to market to Apple users as more people install ad blockers on their phones and tablets."

Been Choice had offered users the choice between blocking all in-app ads outright, or alternatively (via its Earn mode) a means of monetising their data through, with Yoon earlier telling The Drum that it was in negotiations with advertisers and media owners over possible revenue-share models for participating in the scheme (similar to AdBlock Plus' controversial whitelist).

He added: "In light of this, what are the options available to companies to block the ad blockers that may be better? (i) They can use tech to counter ad blocking tech, (ii) They can block users who block ads, (iii) They can appeal to users' conscience.

"Or, our approach, they can ask users allow ads by paying them - an explicit exchange with companies and offers that users love and appreciate. In recent surveys, consumers' desire to block ads was driven in large part (around 70 per cent) by the their desire not to be tracked by ads. We think this gets brands back into the game - including companies such as big box stores and publications. They can leverage their existing brand relationships with users to facilitate the consent-driven relationship on ads and data."

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Ronan Shields

I'm the digital editor at The Drum, and cover adtech and martech. Prefer news and analysis, over opinion pieces. Current fascination(s) are blockchain and media futures trading; also curious about transhumanism on a personal basis. NYC-based, but really London Irish.

All by Ronan