“Been Choice” brings Ad Blocking to Native Apps and iTunes

November 3, 2015 - 3 minutes read

Been ChoiceAd blockers rejoiced while advertisers cringed last week with the release of Been Choice, the first ad blocking app targeting native iPhone apps. The controversial tool uses a combination of Safari content blocking and VPN service, allowing users to filter out advertisements in both web applications and native apps including Facebook, Pinterest, and Yahoo.

While similar VPN ad blocking services have been available before, this is the first time one has been offered in the iTunes app store, causing surprise on all sides of the advertising debate.

Given that even Apple’s News app is among the targets, some commentators predict the app could soon be pulled from iTunes. On the other hand, it’s equally possible that Been Choice represents a new precedent for ad blocking in the native app arena.

Blocking ads in native apps has huge implications for iPhone app developers, with many business models relying on ads for part or all of their revenue. As we’ve reported before, this isn’t necessarily bad for developers, though it obviously creates new challenges. So far it seems that only native apps like Twitter that use end-to-end encryption are exempt from the deep packet inspection of Been Choice’s VPN filtering option.

An ad blocking app for native may seem like a small splash to some, but the story gets interesting when users encounter Been Choice’s more controversial feature: paid data collection.

Been Choice users have the option of toggling between “block” and “paid” modes. Those opting for the “paid” mode give consent to share their data with advertisers in exchange for cash via PayPal. Data subject to resale includes everything from device and carrier information to communication and transaction content, raising privacy concerns for many users.

Overall, Been Choice sends a mixed message. While their goal seems to be offering users a choice between privacy and sharing, the audience that signs up for an ad blocking app is generally not the same as the audience for a data-sharing app. Putting both features under the hood gives users on both sides of the privacy date reason to be suspicious.

Nevertheless, we can expect that native app users will increasingly turn to ad blocking as a standard feature of their browsing habits. Chicago iPhone app developers and startups worldwide must plan accordingly.

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