back to article Apple ads to target your iTunes history

Apple is using the immense amount of data that it has collected from its 150 million iTunes accounts to help its iAd advertisers target their pitches to users of iOS 4 devices. "Apple knows what you've downloaded, how much time you spend interacting with applications and knows even what you've downloaded, don't like and …


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  1. Combat Wombat

    Awesome !

    Thanks Apple.. you just convinced me never to buy an Iphone

    I DO NO WANT !

    I am paying for a data plan, and there is no way I am having my precious money stolen serving up ads.

    I hate advertising in all its forms, and I am really sad that the world is becoming more and more centralized around it.

    God next we will have a futurama like world where ad's are beaming into your head while you sleep.

    I will be buying a HTC Hero, which is thankfully ad free.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      has ad-supported apps too

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down


      > I am paying for a data plan, and there is no way I am having my precious money stolen serving up ads.

      THEN DON"T F*CKING CLICK ON THEM YOU DOUGHNUT!!!!! Or only use Apps without Ads (which may mean actually rewarding the developer for his/her work).

      > I hate advertising in all its forms

      Presumably then, you have one of those rare jobs which doesn't have to rely on advertising to promote its service, product or facilities?

      > I will be buying a HTC Hero, which is thankfully ad free.

      No it isn't - look again...

      1. da_fish27

        @Idiotic Coward comment

        >> I am paying for a data plan, and there is no way I am having my precious money stolen serving up ads.

        > THEN DON"T F*CKING CLICK ON THEM YOU DOUGHNUT!!!!! Or only use Apps without Ads (which may mean actually rewarding the developer for his/her work).

        Ehm, doughnut, you don't have to click on the ad for it to consume some data. You know, the image/whatever on which they want you to click does not appear by magic, it is transfered too.

    3. Mike Flugennock

      Dumb phones, FTW!

      It's crap like this that makes me even more glad that I own a dumb phone.

    4. Nathan Margason

      This site is ad supported!!!

      If you hate advertisements so much, why are you reading El Reg?! Its an ad supported site. All these articles are paid for by advertisers. Maybe you'll just send in a check? Sheesh.

    5. Chris 3

      I bet you block El Reg's ads then...

      .... you freeloader.

    6. Anonymous Coward

      @Combat Wombat

      There is an opt out feature - and they will not use personal data when serving ads. If you don't want ads at all, don't install apps with them embedded. On your HTC Hero, if you want to bypass all ads, you'll have to bypass the broswer - it's the number one location where your personal data is used to serve you ads.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @Combat Wombat

        "On your HTC Hero, if you want to bypass all ads, you'll have to bypass the broswer - it's the number one location where your personal data is used to serve you ads."

        This is complete and utter bollocks / Apple fanboy FUD.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Thumb Down

          @Stike Vomit

          Then you must never visit Google.

    7. Anonymous Coward

      Don't get yourt knickers in a twist - thge ads are NOT compulsory!

      Now you've finished over-reacting, perhaps you might want to take a deep breath, count to 10, then read about it all again.

      You see, despiteyour overactive protestations, Apple are NOT forcing you to receive ANY adverts at all.

      Yes, you can avoid every single advert!


      Simple - don't download the FREE (paid-for-by-ads) apps, instead just PAY for the apps - hey presto, no adverts!

      Or you could just hyperventillate and bleat about Bad Apple Forcing Ads on you, even though they are not - whatever makes you happy.

      Oh, and by the way - you do know that apps wityh ads have been around for a long time, don't you? Or are you one of those who loves to knee-jerk without actually knowing anything about the topic?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They said they were going to do that

    from the iTunes EULA:

    4. Consent to Use of Data. You agree that Apple and its subsidiaries may collect and use technical and related information, including but not limited to technical information about your computer, system and application software, and peripherals, that is gathered periodically to facilitate the provision of software updates, product support and other services to you (if any) related to the Apple Software and to verify compliance with the terms of this License. Apple may use this information, as long as it is in a form that does not personally identify you, to improve our products or to provide services or technologies to you.

    That's from the January 2007 EULA that popped up when you first launched iTunes 7.1.1. You did read it, yes?

  3. Mike Flugennock

    screw this noise; I locked down iTunes long ago

    This isn't big news to me, in so many ways.

    When I first got my G4 Tower, which shipped with iTunes 4.7, the first thing I did was go to iTunes' Preferences and shut off any connections it might make to the iTunes store or the Internet at large (Little Snitch, FTW), followed by turning off auto-update and figuring out how to close out all those useless frames that do nothing but show advertising. I've also deliberately chosen not to upgrade iTunes.

    Same thing when my wife and I got our G4 iBooks, which shipped with iTunes 6. Hit the Prefs first thing, switched off any options that involve iTunes connecting to the Internet or iTunes store. Haven't upgraded there, either.

    Pure peace. iTunes does what I need it to do -- play my music and burn my mix discs -- and that's it. Still, it's a shame there isn't a version of Audion for OSX. I used it as my main mp3 player back when I had an old beige G3 (upgraded from a 7500) running OS9 doing "tune server" duty in my studio.

    1. Gritzwally Philbin

      Audion Lives!

      Mike, there most certainly IS a version of Audion for OSX. Go to the Panic website and it's there on the 'Extras' page (there's a link for the serial number free as well so you can rip streams with it) and I have it on my MacPro running Leopard and it's on my husband's MacBook running Snow Leopard (you DO have to install Rosetta support for that though). The faces work as well, though if you CAN make heads or tails of the 'Taed' face, you'll be my hero. Forever. LOL!

      FWIW, I also am running iTunes 4.6 on my MacPro, as it will allow a bulk renaming of album and artist by selecting the whole album and typing in the name once.. somewhere along the line iTunes lost this ability. I think it got tossed because most people connect to the internet when they put in their CD's so the CDDB works for that.

      Thoroughly frustrating that this function seems lost, but oddly enough I have BOTH versions - 9.2 AND 4.6 on my systems (I have three) and there's only 1 preference file setting and it's universal. The libraries are different for each as I am in constant flux with adding and moving songs, 'cos I've got the machines tied to a home music 'jukebox' in my living room. It's an XPF install of Tiger on a Beige G3 with a Sonnet CPU upgrade and a bucket-load of fun stuff in.

      It's cool how the three cloned preferences I have all play on different hardware with the SAME settings - like you I have the Music Store shut off, I'm a vinyl junkie and rip my own CD's with Coaster 1.0 in OS 9 and do the mp3 encoding in iTunes 1.1 (384k, VBR highest quality)!

      No spying on me.. though God only knows what good that would do anyone that wants to look - I'm a total saddo with naught much more than old country rips..

      Deb. (aka Gritz..)

      1. GrandpaChris

        iOS4 embedded

        Apple has embedded the iAd onto it's new OS-"4". Therfore once your group is identified you will be given the 'opportunity' via the OS to see your targeted advertising. (all upgrades will fine tune your OS via any information Apple may obtain on you for your group.)


        1. Robert Hill

          As an ex-Mobile Media exec...

          let me categorically state that MOST if not all mobile carriers "zero rate" ads and their bandwidth. There are some that might not, but I can't tell you which. We use "reverse proxy servers" to determine which pieces of data are being served as ADS, and which are content, and we zero-rate the ads. It actually costs the mobile carriers real hard money to pay for the reverse proxy serving, as it is outsourced for at least the carrier I worked for...and they get little back from it, as so many THINK they are paying for the ad's bandwidth anyway...

          I did some maths on this though, and found the cost of the ad bandwidth to be very, very low however, for the average user. In general, if the app you get is free but ad supported, you are probably paying next to nothing for the ad bandwidth compared to the price of a paid application - IF the mobile carrier even charges at all for that bandwidth.

          As I no longer work in mobile, I have no vested interest in this fight, but I thought at least the "truth should be out there"....

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who pays

    The bandwidth for ads doesn't add up to much for a home broadband connection, but with mobile data plans, could people end up with huge phone bills that are caused by ads?

    Is this the path that will make people pay for ad-free versions?

    1. Bill Fresher

      Apps working

      When I'm abroad I switch off data on my phone so as not to rack up huge bills.... will the iAd supported apps still work if they can't access a data connection?

  5. Lou Gosselin

    If I want it I'll go look for it.

    Otherwise, keep it out of my face.

  6. Wrenchy

    Ok iTards & Google haters

    Where are all the anti-Google, anti-privacy comments now?

    Looks like Stevie-Boy has some special snake-oil to sell you.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Jobs Horns

      You read my mind

      Some of the comments on this page are proof that Fanbois really will attempt to defend the indefensible

  7. Anonymous Coward


    Isnt this exactly what apple fanboys criticise Google about? Quell surprise?

    1. Anonymous Coward


      They criticise Google for releasing half arsed products.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: They criticise Google for releasing half arsed products

        The iPhone 4 is made by Google?

        1. Anonymous Coward

          @Stike Vomit

          Hey, Fandroid, not the iPhone 4 but the incredibly successful, outsold (what?) called the Nexus One is.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Of course, what will ultimately happen in the App Store

    is that developers will turn to a two-tier pricing model: cheaper with ads, more expensive without, and a handy option to upgrade from within the app itself.

    1. NightFox

      No Change

      But that's been the model on the App Store for ages already - free, ad-supported versions of apps and paid ad-free versions.

      This isn't about ads coming to Apps, they've been there for ages so there's not going to be any massive increase in bandwidth/download allowance use (unless you click on the ads of course), this is about those ads now being targeted based on your personal iTunes usage.

      People get in a spin about privacy issues, but personally it's not the gathering of information, it's how it's used that's all I'm bothered about. And the fact that I'll now be getting adverts that may be of some relevance to me *instead* of the adverts I'm already getting that are of no interest whatsoever means that I really don't have an issue with this.

  9. lasuit

    First Rule of Business Fight Club

    Make money any way you can. Rule 2: Try not to piss off clients.

  10. nsld
    Paris Hilton

    I am guessing

    You cant get any ad blocking plug ins for iThingies?

    With UK data plans limited unlimiteds coming in and the cost of roaming data I wouldnt be too happy getting my costs increased by an ad platform with no choice to switch it off.

    Paris, always good for a plug in.

  11. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    Not Google, not Apple - little problem with privacy laws

    In the UK, and AFAIK in the EU, you cannot sign away your right to privacy IMplicitly (i.e. as part of another contract), you have to do this EXplicitly (so there is a separate statement detailing that you consent to the use of your personal data for nefarious purposes such as marketing.

    In other words, EULA gaming or not - the use of private data by both Google and Apple may *still* be illegal unless a separate permission or tick box is provided - and that tick box must default to opt-out (something that is frequently "forgotten" as well).

    Time to have a chat with the Information Commissioner again..

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Time for you to check your facts before getting to foamy at the mouth, Fred.

      1. Woodgar


        That's an opt-out option.

        The whole point was that you should be opted out by default, and you need to take positive action to opt-in to these schemes.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          Where is the opt out for Google? If there is a link I'd love to know about it so I can opt out of them too.

          1. Dante


            The opt out for google is not to use google.

            Where were the other places where I could go and get apps from if I don't want my data collected? Oh...

          2. bill 20

            Google opt-out


            For what it's worth...there are so many different outfits trying to track you and steal your personally identifiable information online these days, it's extremely unlikely that you'll stop all of them without taking drastic action like disabling some services, which will have a detrimental effect on what you can actually do online.

            Your choices are; withdraw from the online world -or- put up with these parasites. The middle ground of a severely-limited -but secure- user experience really isn't worth the hassle.

        2. Anonymous Coward

          No concrete law or precedence...

          It is perhaps *preferred* that way; it's certainly more transparent. My point was that Mr Flintsone should think first, but we've all seen the antics he get's up to with his pal Barney and it rarely starts with old Fred thinking first!

  12. Mark C Casey

    Opt Out

    Just a heads up that you can opt out of this stuff on your iAds.. I mean IOS device by visiting

  13. Eddie Johnson
    Jobs Horns

    Thanks for the Clarity

    "Apple knows what you've downloaded, how much time you spend interacting with applications and knows even what you've downloaded, don't like and deleted,” iCrossing head mobile marketeer Rachel Pasqua is reported to have said on Apple's iAd data leveraging here.

    In one sentence you've summed up for me the reason why I've never installed this virus on one of my computers and have lectured people whenever they asked me to install it on theirs.

    When I do get around to getting an mp3 player you can bet it won't be an iPod, even if the hardware I get is inferior. I've been toying with the idea of buying about 5 of those $20 no namers, they are just a step away from disposable and you just load em like a USB thumb drive - no spyware required.

    1. Rattus Rattus

      those $20 no namers

      I have a couple of those, they're pretty good actually. If you don't need much of a screen, just audio, the playback's often better quality than iPods deliver too. This might be due to the fact that most of 'em support OGG which I use by preference over MP3.

    2. Fred Flintstone Gold badge
      Paris Hilton


      "have lectured people whenever they asked me to install it on theirs"

      "Educated" would be better. I make a point of gently making people understand some of the fundamentals of computing, at which point they generally start to understand why you do certain things and avoid others. Just telling them "Bad idea, just don't" (which is what "lecturing" implies is in my experience ineffective other than ensuring they won't come to you if they have a problem. That might be a laudable aim in itself, if it wasn't for the fact that that generally doesn't work with family :-).

      As for iTznes, well, you choose the devil that works for you. At least iTunes sort of works (partially, I move around internationally and the shop part is tied to one country only).

      Running away every time a supplier gets a dumb idea in his head is IMHO not going to change matters, which is why I prefer to throw large bricks at them instead. Every time any of those idiots in marketing decides to use my metrics for something that I don't agree with I find a way to lob it over the fence at the government. As a lone individual I can't do much, but letting a government department be a pain in the neck is IMHO a good use of my taxes :-). It's also vastly more efficient to outsource it..

      Paris, because she's much more decorative than Jobs - and I have yet to see privacy problems emanate from Paris Hilton Entertainment..

  14. Alan Swartz

    << This is the Title >>

    Apple == Big Brother

    What irony considering the 1984 Apple commercial!

  15. Jean-Paul


    Jeez calm down people...This non-identifieble data gathering is done every single day with anything you do....

    Don't want ads on your iPhone, simple just buy the full application or choose the alternative free application from a developer who doesn't choose to get a revenue stream from serving ads.

    The Android platform is no different, many apps have ads and many don't...Your choice you are in control...

    No calm down will you...

    1. DZ-Jay

      Re: Jeez

      Plus, as someone else mentioned above, you can easily opt out of targeted ads by visiting;

      from your iOS 4 device.

      You will still get ads, but not based on your history. How is this any worse than AdMob?


    2. Anonymous Coward

      Non identifiable

      If its non identifiable how can they target you specifically?

      Its clearly identifiable in the same way that tesco club card is. It tracks your account, sees what you like/dont like and then sends offers/ads accordingly.

      If it didnt identify you it couldnt send you the appropriate adverts.

      Your clearly living in a dream world if you think they dont collect identifiable information.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @AC re: non identifiable

        You're not understanding. They don't use personal infomation if you opt out, just as you see billboards on the road. The only thing they know about you is you are in a car in a certain location. The ads will use some rudimentary intelligence, like serve up ads for games if you are playing a game with ads in it. Hell, if you're playing a game they'll probably serve ads for other consumer techie devices too. But that's all they would know.

      2. DZ-Jay

        Re: Non identifiable

        To be clear, the information *shared* is "non-identifiable". Apple does *collect* this identifying information and ties it to your account. The issue is with sharing. The difference between this and other "loyalty" cards is that in the latter, *all* information--identifying or not--is shared with advertisers.

        This is not to say that collecting such information is good or in the interest of the consumer. I hate that. But its usage is clearly different than the industry standard, which I hate substantially more.

        Another thing to note is that the "opt-out" feature of iOS 4 is to opt-out from *receiving* the targeted ads. This says nothing regarding the actual information collected. They may still collect the information (and I'm pretty sure they do), but they will give you generic ads instead.


  16. Ivan Headache

    How is this any worse than AdMob?

    Or Nectar, or Mastercard, or Visa, or Tesco. or any of a dozen other 'loyalty' schemes?

    1. Zolkó Silver badge

      that's why I never take any of these

      that's why I never take any of these "loyalty" cards.

      1. NightFox


        Your loss - I get a 'free' holiday out of Tesco's ClubCard every two years for letting them know my spending habits and I've not noticed this blatant breach of my personal privacy having any negative effect on my life so far.

        So you don't even use credit cards? Debit cards? Even cashpoint machines and bank withdrawals could be used to track your movement around the country.

        So what? And I don't mean "well they could..." because ability and intent are two very different things.

        I accept different people have different comfort levels for the amount of personal information they're willing to share, but take an irrational paranoid absolute stance and you just end up cutting off your nose to spite your face.

        1. Anonymous Coward


          "take an irrational paranoid absolute stance and you just end up cutting off your nose to spite your face."

          Or you have an opinion where my private matters are not to be monetised and then thrown back at me in the form of psychological manipulations (i.e. adverts). This may not be you, but for people who don't mind ads, they usually end up falling prey to them, so it's not exactly free this atttude.

  17. TeeCee Gold badge

    Ad placement.

    "All you have to do is tell us where to put them....."

    Steve's asking for an opinion on where he should stick his adverts? Gosh, that's a difficult one to answer............

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apple ads can target my iTunes history all it likes: I've stopped using iTunes because it's shite.

    "Apple is using the immense amount of data that it has collected from its 150 million iTunes accounts to help its iAd advertisers target their pitches to users of iOS 4 devices."

    Luckily for me I don't own an iOS 4 device and will therefore be free from Apple's piddling attempts to sell me trinkets for pence.

    Go away, Mr Glass Bead peddler, go and show the shiny things to someone who is easily confused by bright lights. I'd rather stuff my money up my own arse than give it to you.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "I get a 'free' holiday out of Tesco's ClubCard every two years"

    I bet it's a cheap holiday though.

    Either that or you spend so much in Tescos you could get a 'free' holiday by cutting back slightly on what you buy throughout the year and saving the money.

    Either that or you're stinking rich and can afford to spend loads of money, in which case why are you crowing about getting a free holiday from Tescos?

  20. Robert Hill
    Thumb Up

    @Nightfox, et al...

    You, sir, are dead on. Most people are so paranoid about "ads" and loyalty programmes they can't even fathom that they CAN be good for them, if they happen to be a loyal customer - and have no bearing at all (except reduced ads usually!) if they are not.

    OK, I've made a career out of CRM for the past 15+ years - so I know the score. Note to all that hate advertisers - in general, advertisers hate you back if you really don't want to buy. They just want to know where to spend their ad money, and where NOT to spend it. Identifying you as a "Not to spend" is as worthwhile to them as anything else.

    Advertising ISN'T evil - it gave the US the major "free" TV networks, most radio stations, and frankly lots of jobs that sell stuff that is marketed to consumers. It only manipulates you to the degree that you wish to be manipulated. And it provides the funding for a whole host of things that we like as "FREE". All Apple has done is expand that "FREE" status to more applications - sounds like a plan that benefits EVERYONE to me...and the better the targeting, the fewer feminine hygiene ads I have to see (whew!).

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