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Secrecy fetish drove Steve Jobs' analytics bust

Flurry: 'We're in no violation'

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Application security programs and practises

An exec with the analytics firm that "pissed off" Steve Jobs so mightily that the Apple CEO banned all such data-gathering software has said that Apple's concerns were more about secrecy than privacy.

"I think where we've gone afoul potentially is [about] just what Apple would prefer us to share and not [to] share with the public," Peter Farago, VP of marketing for Flurry, told The Register on Monday at the iPad Game Summit in South San Francisco.

Farago's blog post a few days before the iPad was announced revealed that his company's analytics software had discovered that Apple was testing 50 of the "magical and revolutionary" devices on its Cupertino campus.

Steve Jobs was not amused. "One day we read in the paper that a company called Flurry Analytics has detected that we have some new iPhone and other tablet devices that we're using on our campus," he later told the world during an interview at the D8 Conference in Southern California. "We thought: what the hell?"

Jobs went on to say of Flurry: "The way that they did this is they're getting developers to put their software in their apps and their software is sending out information about the device and about its geolocation and other things back to Flurry. No customer is ever asked about this. It's violating every rule in our privacy policy with our developers, and we went through the roof about this."

After returning from his trip through the roof, Jobs told the D8 attendees that "after we calm down from being pissed off, then we're willing to talk to some of these analytics firms. But it's not today."

Apparently the angry CEO is now less angry — or at least some of his minions are. Referring to Flurry's discussions with Apple about the newly updated and more restrictive wording in the Apple's Programmers Licensing Agreement (PLA) that was ostensibly one of the results of the aforementioned pissing offing, Farago told us: "On that side with Apple and [section] 3.3.9 [of the PLA], we're communicating directly with Apple to work out what's okay and what's not okay from their point of view."

Section 3.3.9, among other things, states that "without Apple’s prior written consent, You may not use third party analytics software in Your Application to collect and send device data to a third party for aggregation, processing, or analysis." When asked if his company was in violation of that directive, Farago said: "No, because the user has already, in the EULA, agreed to third-party data collection."

He claims to have done no wrong — at least under the terms of the PLA before it was updated post-pissing offing: "What we've been doing to date has all been within fair bounds of what's considered [personally identifiable information] — the user ID and all that stuff — so everything we've done to date has been okay," he said, adding "We're in no violation."

Apple's putative concerns over privacy, Farago seems to suggest, are elsewhere. "I think what Apple has been concerned with is Flurry announcing sales of its products and talking abut products that haven't been launched," he told us — and he understands Apple's point of view. "It's fair. It's a fair thing."

In Farago's opinion, the Apple-Flurry relationship is a two-way street. "They recognize that we're in 30,000 applications, and there are a lot of important application developers that rely on Flurry to build better product," he said. "So those developers get data to build better products, and that's been the main use of [our] product."

And the bottom line is keeping developers on the reservation. "Apple likes that we help developers to make better products, which creates better consumer satisfaction, which allows developers to monetize better, which keeps them developing more for iPhone platform versus Android."

He hinted, however, that there's some disagreement between Flurry and Apple about what information developers should be allowed to see, whether it benefits them or not. "There's been some publicity by us, the reports we release, that I think are valuable for the developer to understand the landscape and the context of an installed base and that sort of thing. But, again, that's where Apple seems to want us to do less."

It all boils down to Apple keeping secret the secrets Apple wants to keep secret. What does Apple object to? "Frankly, it's stuff we released in the press," Farago told us. ®

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