Mobile Analytics Firm Flurry Announces New Privacy Regulations For App Developers

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Mobile analytics firm Flurry Thursday announced a new set of privacy rules for application developers aimed at giving end users more control over the data collected about them to better target advertising.

Under the company's Privacy First Initiative, developers using its analytics and promotional tools would be required to provide features in an app's setting, including an opt-out switch and a button to delete any user data linked to a specific device.

Developers would also have to provide "simple, readable" terms of service for Flurry products within an app's own terms or privacy policy, a clear data retention policy, and a button on targeted ads in Flurry's AppCircle network for cross-promoting apps that allow people to opt out of getting the ads.

Among other steps, the company also said it will not send or accept geographic data that is granular enough to place a device more precisely than its metropolitan area.

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The company will roll out a new privacy policy this summer, starting with apps on the iPhone operating system, before being extended to other platforms including Android, BlackBerry and Java. Flurry, which merged with Pinch Media in December, says more than 28,000 companies have integrated its analytics software and AppCircle into more than 40,000 apps.

The company said it would release a new software developers kit (SDK) and guidelines for Flurry analytics that comply with the privacy policy.

The move comes only a week after Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) introduced new legislation that would require Web publishers, advertisers and other companies that collect data about people to notify them about the practice and obtain their consent.

The company cited the Boucher bill in explaining its timing of the privacy rules, but added that the announcement came after months of consultation with customers and partners, as well as reviewing privacy standards in similar industries. That effort included consideration privacy standards adopted by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the Mobile Marketing Association.

"Mobile is a medium that's growing increasingly popular with consumers vis a vis the Internet, and presents new issues around location-based information as well as the general perception that mobile phones are more "personal" devices among consumers," said Peter Farago, the company's vice president of marketing. He added that no one wants to see mobile become cluttered with the email spam or uwanted pop-up ads that have plagued the desktop Web.

How comfortable developers will be complying with Flurry's new privacy rules, however, remains to be seen. The company's stance against providing precise location information about users could be viewed as a drawback as location-aware apps grow rapidly in popularity.

The company is already at risk of being affected by new requirements that Apple imposed on developers that prohibit them from sharing users with third-party sources that could include mobile ad networks and analytics firms. Apple has reportedly come under federal scrutiny in relation to the new rules, which also mandate that developers use only Apple-approved programming tools.

But Farago indicated recently that it has been business as usual working with Apple, and that Flurry's new SDK will comply with Apple's new developer agreement tied to the launch of iPhone 4.0. "Until we see what comes of all this, we are focused on making the business work, which includes being compliant to Apple going forward," he said.

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