Apple to Flurry: Kiss Our Data Good-bye

Much of the great mobile data we analyze comes from analytics firms, among them Flurry, which entices developers to use tracking codes within mobile applications that its software captures and sends back to the company. Flurry then uses the data to provide detailed information on, for example, which handset makers have the most market share or what platforms have the most apps. Based on comments made by Steve Jobs last night at the All Things D conference, however, when it comes to the iPhone, that practice is about to undergo a major change.

When asked about handset analytics, Jobs specifically mentioned Flurry by name:

“Some company called Flurry had data on devices that we were using on our campus — new devices. They were getting this info by getting developers to put software in their apps that sent info back to this company! So we went through the roof. It’s violating our privacy policies, and it’s p***ing us off! So we said we’re only going to allow analytics that don’t give our device info — only for the purpose of advertising.”

The situation has Jobs upset for at least two reasons: First, companies like Flurry (and developers that use Flurry’s services) don’t have to wait around at a bar to find out about the next super-secret iPhone — by collecting device data through installed software, analytics firms can glean Apple’s future hardware and software plans in advance. Secondly, there’s no simple opt-out method for consumers, who may not even realize that their device-specific data is going to a third-party.

Flurry’s VP of marketing, Peter Farago, told Om via email that that Flurry is changing practices in light of Apple’s position — and to some degree, has done so prior to Jobs calling out Flurry last night. Indeed, on May 13, Flurry announced a Privacy First Initiative “aimed at increasing consumer privacy standards in mobile application data collection and targeting.” Clear opt-out messages, non-granular geographic data and data deletion are among the new privacy activities that will take effect this summer.

That may help stem Jobs’ anger for now, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Apple continues to further clamp down on third-party analytics activities. Flurry says that it will comply with Apple’s wishes and no longer provide aggregated usage statistics, but if that’s the case, it will lose one of the most valuable pieces of its current offerings.

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Disclosure: The GigaOM iPhone application uses Flurry to track application usage metrics.