Posted June 22, 2010 10:48 am by with 6 comments

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If you are a big player in the Internet space these days you will be brought into the spotlight for anything around privacy. You can be confident of that. With Apple getting plenty of attention with a new iPhone OS release (iOS 4) and the latest generation iPhone 4 about to hit the hands of those pre-order folks (keep your fingers crossed!) there is also talk about the new privacy policy that comes wit these changes.

All Things Digital reports

Apple is rolling out its new iPhone operating system, which means that it is also rolling out its new iAd platform. Which means that Apple now has to make its users the same offer that other big digital ad players offer: You can opt-out of our ad targeting program, if you’re willing to do a little work.

In the case of Apple (AAPL), that means reading the new 45-page privacy policy that comes with the iOS 4 update and finding the section about cookies.

Now personally I am a little baffled by the 45-page privacy policy cited above because the link provided goes to a page on Apple’s site that would have to be put on some tiny screens to get to 45 pages. I digress.

As the post points out the most important part of the policy is about cookies and what you can do to keep specific information away from marketers. Here is that section of the policy

Apple and its partners use cookies and other technologies in mobile advertising services to control the number of times you see a given ad, deliver ads that relate to your interests, and measure the effectiveness of ad campaigns. If you do not want to receive ads with this level of relevance on your mobile device, you can opt out by accessing the following link on your device: If you opt out, you will continue to receive the same number of mobile ads, but they may be less relevant because they will not be based on your interests. You may still see ads related to the content on a web page or in an application or based on other non-personal information. This opt-out applies only to Apple advertising services and does not affect interest-based advertising from other advertising networks.

To sum up there is no way to stop ads from being shown. It’s just that the ads you see will be less targeted if you opt-out. This only applies to Apple’s ad network so third party ad servers will need to be addressed separately which might be an interesting experience.

Here’s the bottom line on all of this in my humble and far less than expert opinion. It’s the Internet. Advertisers want as much information about targets as they can get in order to make sure their message goes to the right place so money is not wasted fishing in the wrong place. They will do whatever they can to look like they have the end users’ privacy as their main concern. This is not for the end users’ benefit it is for the company to do a full legal CYA. They put these policies out there and keep their fingers crossed that few, if any, will actually take themselves out of the system.

They also know that the well informed who actually know this stuff are a relatively small group compared to the overall market. So even if they are influencers of sorts they are really only influencers to other influencers, not the masses. It’s a funny little business we are in because we tend to have a pretty inflated view of our impact on the market at large. What happens more often than not these things ‘findings’ rarely get too far beyond the walls of the industry so the ‘damage’ is minimal to Apple’s and other companies efforts to provide a lot of targeted data to marketers.

So complain if you like about convoluted legalese in Apple’s privacy policy but they are no different than anyone else. Of course, Steve Jobs would tell you differently as he did at the D8 conference.

We’ve always had a very different view of privacy than some of our colleagues in the Valley. We take privacy extremely seriously. That’s one of the reasons we have the curated apps store. We have rejected a lot of apps that want to take a lot of your personal data and suck it up into the cloud.

Privacy means people know what they’re signing up for. In plain English, and repeatedly, that’s what it means. Ask them. Ask them every time. Make them tell you to stop asking if they get tired of your asking them. Let them know precisely what you’re going to do with their data.

That’s nice conference speak. Too bad privacy policies don’t read the same way.