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“Apps intended for kids may not include third-party advertising or analytics” (developer.apple.com)
1179 points by donohoe on June 5, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 379 comments

I totally agree with this!

I built a game and naively added ads to it as it seemed a good way to monetize. The game started to be really liked, and had 300k+ downloads overall. Many kids started playing it also.

Luckily I realized quickly that kids play on the devices of parents and so the ads they might see are at times super inappropriate!

Then I removed all ads, I'd rather make less money but have people play and have a good time. Its not always about money. At times I get contacted by players, how they love the game and how it has been part of their childhood etc. Some very moving messages, worth more then a few additional bucks from ads and I feel much better because players aren't exposed to random ads, pictures and messages.

The learning for me was that I will never work on anything that uses ads as source of income, this includes turning down jobs at Google and Facebook.

Do you morally disagree with advertising/tracking monetization as a whole or just those particularly geared towards vulnerable populations? (children in your instance)

I have my professional job developing software solutions for clients on a contractual base, but for a period after I graduated university I dabbled in mobile development and made the decision during that time that I'd never bloat my crappy apps with ads or tracking. I can't particularly articulate why I'm against that business method as a whole, but something always felt wrong in subjecting people to tracking/advertisements for my own monetary gain... if I'm not producing something worth paying outright for then I'm not going to skim pennies off the privacy of my users.

I'm not in the app market, but I run a few user-content-oriented websites which get millions of monthly hits. They're funded only by community donations. I decided to never add any ads to any of them.

I'm not sure I morally disagree with advertising or tracking. (In my case, my websites are aimed at adults and there are no concerns about children seeing inappropriate content.) It's not about the morality or even the tracking for me. I personally don't even mind tracking all that much (though I know I'm in a tiny minority on HN).

I just, simply, really fucking hate looking at ads. They're annoying and distracting and ugly and will make any decent-looking website look tacky and dumb. And I thought, if I would never want to browse my own website and see ads, why should I subject other users to them? Sure, I use an ad blocker, and most of my users probably do, too, but I'm sure there are many who don't. And there're also the practical concerns about ads affecting page load performance and bandwidth consumption, but that's a more minor consideration.

I also try to avoid commercials and video pre-roll ads (even those HBO ones advertising other HBO shows), and I skip past all ad/sponsor parts of podcasts and YouTube videos. I can only think of a single time in my life that an ad led to a purchase, and that was from a YouTuber I liked doing an absurd segment that unexpectedly turned the entire 10 minute video into an over-the-top ad for the sponsor, and it was funny and well-written and well-executed and was something I was already planning to get and seemed to be a good deal and a good product, so I actually did buy it a week or so later. That's one exception out of hundreds of thousands or millions, though.

I admit I do feel what might be a kind of revulsion at the thought of huge companies like Google and Facebook making advertising their primary revenue source, or the thought of some of our world's top minds being paid amazing salaries to figure out how to get more people to look at and click ads. But I think it just comes down to me not wanting to see or hear them. They waste my time and/or much of my visual field, and are an eye/ear-sore, and I'd like to do unto others as I would want them to do unto me.

> I'm not sure I morally disagree with advertising or tracking.

This seems to me like one of those spots where one's approach to ethics can play a big part in the conclusions you draw.

From a sort of Kant-style, deontological perspective, where you have to be able to say with confidence that something is morally wrong in order to make much of a judgment at all about it, yeah, it seems hard to mount a strong case against ads.

From a more Bentham-style utilitarian approach, it's easier: Are ads and tracking a net benefit or detriment to people in general? AFAICT, the only people who try to mount a case that the answer is yes are people whose livelihoods depend on everyone being OK with ads.

Then there's the "do unto others" approach you get from virtue ethics. The GP's take of, "I'm not going to monetize with ads because ads annoy me" reminds me of that.

It's interesting, because, if you could paint those three approaches to ethics with a broad brush, the latter two would be, "Let's try and make things as nice for everyone as possible," while the first would be more like, "As long as it's not actually evil, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯"

> the only people who try to mount a case that the answer is yes are people whose livelihoods depend on everyone being OK with ads.

Playing devil's advocate... Advertising helps the world in the case where a person has a need and they see an ad that informs them of a way they hadn't considered to address that need, and that solution proves to be better than available alternatives.

... I'm sure that happens ever. I am skeptical that it's enough to net positive.

I wish I saw more ads for local entertainment options. Preferably diverse. I don't need 100 ads all telling me to do the same thing at different venues. But an ad informing me that hey, this weekend there will be a model train convention or if you'd rather there is a big chess boxing game you could go see. That'd be cool.

You may very well be aware, but local newspapers (online as well as off) often have a section for events.

Another argument would be that advertising allowed the internet to develop as it is, to the scale it is. It's impossible to separate the accessibility, progress, UX, and information available from the core business model that enabled so much of it.

If ads had never been allowed, would search be more like AOl's keywords? Would we still be limited to 10MB in email storage? Think what you will, but Google has developed a ton of impressive technology and open sourced quite a bit of it; they have been much more open stewards than I would expect if AOL and IBM and Microsoft built out the internet.

(They have also given everyone a ton of value without asking for money from users -- it's important to not underestimate how far we've come on the backs of the ad dollar).

It might be a faustian bargain, or it might not be.

IBM and Microsoft both contribute more to open source than Google. In fact, the explosion of the internet occured during their primes moreso than Google.

What Google really pushed forward was SaaS and the free price tag was a trick to make it seem as good as open source.

But when it comes down to it, Gmail is worse than Windows 7 when it comes to user power. At least you can use windows 7 without a constant connection to Microsoft.

Microsoft is in the open source game to domimate it. They want to be in a position where you can't realistically run an open source project without their involvement. Their recent moves around github all point in that direction.

IBM has more of a consultancy perspective: they want rheur business customers to pay for services provided on top of existing solutions. And open source platforms make it easier to sell custom extensions.

These are valid counter-arguments; my intention wasn't to litigate the merits of each claim, just to mention that as the parent had trouble conceiving of other options than 1.

I will say, however, that your claims would be challenging to verify or refute -- quantity of contributions may not be a good metric, and it appears your Gmail/Win7 comparison is based on a single dimension (user power) which is further limited to one dimension of that dimension (whether it requires a constant connection).

You may be correct, but your comment didn't provide much of an argument to get me to think more of the problem. It just seemed like you needed to negate my (also unsubstantiated but admittedly devil's advocate position) out of some sense of anti-google sentiment.

I think you really had a good piece of feedback going until you made it personal in the last paragraph. It does not endear you to the reader and from an intellectual perspective I don't understand why you'd finish an otherwise well-structured response like that. If it was out of anger, I would expect it in the front. Can you explain what made you write it like this?

> If ads had never been allowed, would search be more like AOl's keywords?

Not sure how that's related to ads. I've been online since 1996, and AOL wasn't available in my country, although did get those AOL trial diskettes with my copy of C&C: Red Alert.

Xcite, Yahoo, Altavista, Askjeeves and others simply had a search box and an alphabetical directory of sites. I didn't hear about Google until 1999 when I came across a Time Magazine article about it, and there were ads on the internet well before then.

> Would we still be limited to 10MB in email storage?

Are you sure ads are related?

If you calculate the cost of 10MB of hard drive space in the good old days of Yahoo mail, adjust for inflation, calculate how much hard drives you can buy now for that money, you’ll get at least 100GB. I don’t think average gmail mailbox approaches that size.

Originally, in the days of doubleclick, before Google cornered the internet ad marktet, I absolutely hated online ads. They were annoying, distracting and intrusive.

Then Google conquered the market with very low-key unobtrusive ads, and I was fine with them. I had no problem with tracking, because it lead to more relevant and less annoying ads.

But in the past couple of years, tracking and ads are touching on absolutely everything I do online. Google for an accountant, and for the next month all videos on Youtube have ads for accountants. Read an article on something, and suddenly all ads are about that.

And with these ad companies also controlling our social media and our online search results, suddenly my entire view of the internet, and therefore my view of the world, becomes controlled by people who want to show me ads to sell me stuff.

It's too controlling and too intrusive, and I have no control over it. Maybe if they make it more transparent and gave me more control over what they show me, I'd be fine with it, but at the moment it's too much.

Only seeing informative ads about things I'm interested in is good. Having my entire experience controlled by people who want to monetize my information is not.

The problem I have with the anti-advertising crowd is that none of them take their philosophy to the required ethical conclusion: Stop using free ad-supported resources. Google and Facebook are easy examples of this. The position would be far more ethically aligned if they unplugged from all ad-supported products and services.


Just because someone, either by choice or necessity (have you tried to stop using all ad-supported resources? You've practically gotta be a hermit) participates in something they find morally wrong, doesn't cease to make it morally wrong.

The morality, or lack thereof is your perspective and yours only, it is not an absolute fact.

What is a fact is that some are perfectly content having others pay for services they use while, at the sane time, trying to weave a fake moral framework with which to justify their actions.

Nobody is forcing anyone to use these sites, and you don’t have to.

Advertising is a pollution on social space. A deliberately attention-grabbing advertisement represents a very real theft from people, and a public space covered in it, even more so. Advertising is designed to exploit inherent human weaknesses and biases, to manipulate behaviour. It's abusive. Seen from this position, Google is an abuser.

The required ethical conclusion is not "inconvenience yourself so you can be more respectable", it's far more extreme than that. What about saving other people from it, or activism to ban it completely, like we restrict noise pollution and physical manipulation of strangers?

Using ad-supported services and an ad-blocker might be unethical theft, but the anti-advertising position is against-adverts not how to treat Google fairly; it's not about being "ethically aligned".

I'm not exactly presented with that option.

If, when clicking on a hyperlink, I were presented with a landing page where I'd be presented a diagram of what the page would look like, in order to inform me that 70% of the initial data mass of the page would be chumbox, and that there'd be a video that expands out of the middle of the article and starts playing automatically as I scroll past, etc etc, then I'd happily rely on that instead of an adblocker. But that's not what happens - instead, I click the link, and the page immediately starts eating up my data budget (which costs me money, yo) and attempting to track me. My best defense here is to use some sort of adblocker.

At which point, the equilibrium point seems to be, some sites I don't even necessarily know they're trying to serve ads to me. Other sites give me a little popup saying, "Disable adblock or GTFO," so I politely GTFO.

It's less possible to do anything on that front with outdoor advertising; annoying as a lot of it is, I can't very well stop consuming the world itself.

TV, radio, stuff like that, that's at least getting easy nowadays.

That's not how I think about it, though. It's not about the principles of a website using ads or issues with advertising companies. I just personally don't want to see them. If I'm using a Google service, I generally see no or almost no ads because I use uBlock Origin, so I'm not bothered at all. And I actually do subscribe to YouTube Premium because there's no decent way to block ads in the mobile apps, as far as I know.

I do like Google's services, and I do understand they couldn't exist without ads, so I know there's a little bit of cognitive dissonance there. But for me, if I can block the ads, then I'm not going to complain. The only time I boycott a site is if they lock you out of the site if they detect you're using an ad blocker. (I'm okay with small messages politely suggesting you turn it off if they don't otherwise restrict access to the site. I always ignore them, though.)

It isn’t cognitive dissonance. You are using something others are paying for and don’t wat to be bothered. If you don’t like the add, don’t use the service.

"Pay for the ad-free version" is pretty common.

I don't see that option in these services.

Then don’t use the service. Nobody is forcing you. You want to use a service for free and have other people pay fir it.

You can also start paid versions of these services and show them how it’s done. People who don’t want ads are sure to flock to your services.

Brilliant. And, of course, nobody using ad blockers will sign up. They want others to pay while they use the web for free.

That means signing up for a Google account, which means you're being tracked.

The alternative ethical conclusion is to pay for the services. I would if I could, but a lot of these guys don't offer this because they want a nice broad stroke of people in their data pie.

And that's just where these services are being up front. There's a lot of sneaky underhand tracking that goes on without even being aware of it.

I run a user-content website, and hate advertising too. But, the website costs $15,000 a year in expenses to run, and community donations bring in $3,000. Advertising generates $50,000.

I stay with safe ad categories (no drugs, alcohol, gambling, adult content, etc), and use standard display sizes. No audio ads, background ads, popups, etc. I'm sure the site could generate twice the revenue with background advertisements.

Anyway, I just wanted to give a slightly different perspective. Although I hate advertising as much as you, my site doesn't work with community donations. So, I use advertising to keep it alive, and try to draw a line somewhere I think is appropriate.

Never ran something like this, but always wondered: why not have a visible counter saying "this is what it costs to run, please donate!" and let people donate to keep it up? Some kinda big progress bar somewhere or whatever.

How do you know it "doesn't work with community donations" when you have no measures to help deal with the tragedy of the commons?

I ran a content forum and blog that needed $6k at cost back in pre vps days and raised it several years in a row off community donations.

I refused to show ads because they were all ticket brokers / scalpers.

It is actually kind of a pain and takes work to raise money this way. For me, I had to do a personal appeal, email drips, and I even added membership status indicators to usernames and gave access to “exclusive” content.

It did work though with the thermometer thingy and some pluck.

Yeah I suspect it could work with some savvy and pluck. I have some ideas that will probably lead me to face off with this issue myself, I'm kinda looking forward to it.

Or with that, a visible running revenue counter with a probability that ads will show. If the site generates $3k/year and costs $15k/year 20% of the page loads would be ad free.

I don't blame GP for wanting to make some money - they're certainly putting in some otherwise unpaid hours. But a "Target 0" system could work well for some communities.

If wikipedia is any indication, it doesn't work without plastering the top half of the screen begging for a donation.

Have you ever worked at a nonprofit? I have, my whole career, lots of them. Don't say this. Nonprofits use strategy after strategy, tested and untested and rational and intuitive, to increase donations in every way they can. They know what they're doing. Do they get it 100% right? No. Do they do it all day, every day, and know a ton about it? Yes.

I can't tell you how many times someone has said to me "why do you guys send out those letters? Everyone just throws them out." Do you know why? Because we see how much they cost, and how much they make, and it's worth it.

This guy is actually running a community site that's paying for itself. Do not question him, especially by proposing one tiny little strategy among the thousands that might work.

Yes, I have, but didn't deal with this issue.

I don't think this advice of "if you haven't done it you can't criticize or ask questions about it" is very good. It would bar me from commenting on and criticizing Michael Bay movies, so no thank you.

I'd also like to know if the guy shuts off the ads when he makes more than is needed for maintenance costs.

No, I don't shut off the advertising.

1. That's my bill for hosting and bandwidth expenses. I obviously need to consider the cost of my time which is not included in that figure. The more money the site generates, the more time I invest in it. So, if it were to generate $150,000 from advertising, I wouldn't shut it off, but I'd start pulling my time out of other projects, and moving it into this community site to add more of the requested features.

2. I want to save for a rainy day. Online communities don't last forever. It would be short sighted to shut off advertising simply because this years expenses are met, and then two years from now I need to close up the site because advertising is falling short. When the site hits a rough patch, I want the savings to either push it through or pivot. Coasting on maintenance costs would be a dangerous road with an abrupt end.

How much do you need to save for a rainy day?

I've heard that line from people raking in several hundred thousand a year, while they still callously heap ads on their audiences.

If you have no target, neither for your site nor for your personal ambition, it seems like the veneer of "I tried to avoid them but couldn't" is really quite thin.

Do you serve the ads yourself or do you defer to third party ad networks? I have no problem with the former, but with the latter I think it's very hard to control what gets displayed, and you're also opening your users up to various attack vectors.

There has got to be a niche available for somebody to do plain old non-evil advertising???

EDIT $15,000 a year sounds like a tremendous amount of money to run a web site in 2019 ...

He said user content so that might be users uploading images, audio, or video with the associated storage and bandwidth costs not to mention workers for generating thumbnails.

I'm the grand-parent poster and not the parent, but yeah, my user-content sites don't cost anywhere near that much. Storage is probably the biggest cost, and that still doesn't cost much. I'm not really sure how a site like that could cost that much unless you're getting absurd amounts of traffic, or are using some poorly optimized software; though I also don't know the nature of the site or the content.

If my costs were anywhere close to that I think I'd have no choice but to suck it up and place some ads as well. As it is, community donations cover our costs just fine, but pretty much 100% of that revenue - which is all of our revenue - goes to infrastructure cost. We don't make any profit, but that was never the intention when creating the sites.

I can give you my feelings towards this topic. Personally, I don't mind ads that inform me of the existence of a product that I may be interested in, where it tells me how it can solve my problems.

What I don't like is ads that use psychological devices to try to get me to buy their product. I also don't like ads that are a distraction of the content I'm trying to consume. So when playing a game, if the ad scroll at the bottom of the screen is flashy, I can't easily play that game so I give up. Now an ad that shows on a loading screen may be more acceptable, as long as the contents of the ad aren't something that would get me fired if someone at work sees it.

I also hate that ads have to have their own javascript in it. The ad networks should provide a safe canned set of functions that they control, and not serve up anything that an ad customer submits.

Finally, if I'm already doing research for something (such as browsing through the Bose headphones site), I don't want to see ads for those same headphones that I already researched, following me around on all the web pages I visit. It just really feels like someone is stalking me. Or look through a site like rvtrader, then when you look up the weather the next day you see a bunch of camper ads. Again, stalking. It's gotten to the point where I constantly browse in a private browsing tab (yes, there are ways they can still track me, but they aren't as obvious about it).

The distraction aspect is what really gets to me; cancelled my NYTimes subscription after these bright red / orange advertisements loaded all over the page, where the content I was interested in was the bland black text over white background. Couldn't even read the headlines without naturally focusing on the bright red advertisements.

So, do they really have the same ads as you could see without subscription?

Yes, WSJ too

I had this experience with my Irish Times subscription too ... it wasn't the main reason I unsubscribed but was a contributor ... actually IIRC it was what prompted me to install an ad blocker in the first place!

> (yes, there are ways they can still track me, but they aren't as obvious about it).

But then other people in your house get the ads too...

> Derek! Have you been shopping for RVs again?!?!

The easier method is to only log into Google in the private tab. That's what I do.

Personally it depends on the product. I find advertising specific prescription drugs abhorrent to anyone.

However, I think it’s completely reasonable to say talk to your doctor about ED or whatever. If there is only one treatment they seem similar, but when several options exist people should not be pushing for a specific drug based on an ad campaign.

I find the idea of any ad reccomending me to talk to a doctor extremely creepy - in what world would you want ad providers acting as doctors..

In the abstract it makes sense:

- We've decided (in the US at least, but most everywhere short of a few communist or communist-adjacent countries) that the way we incentivize and reward drug researchers is by having them work for pharmaceutical companies that profit on the free market—and in particular that drugs are valuable to society and worth researching in proportion to how much profit they bring.

- If you don't know that a certain medical condition is a medical condition, you might not seek treatment for it, or you might not recognize it at all. In particular, rare diseases by their nature are those that many doctors don't know how to diagnose, and new treatments by their nature won't have been part of those doctors' curriculum.

- There are few means of reliably pushing information to the general public outside of advertising.

Therefore advertising "talk to your doctor about this condition" (and perhaps "whether certain drugs might be right for you") is both a rational / logical response within this framework and exactly what the framework wants you to do.

If we want to get rid of it, let's redesign the framework: reward drug researchers in some way other than profits, or find out how to inform either doctors or patients about new treatments in some other way.

Drug advertising on TV in the US is one of the more in your face dystopian aspects of visiting. It’s very strange to push specific treatments onto lay people who don’t have the background to clinically diagnose or choose treatments for themselves.

Maybe it’s a symptom of lacking a national healthcare system but we manage fine without drug advertising in the UK and elsewhere in Europe. In our case advertising and sales are aimed towards Doctors.

And even the pressure on medics has been greatly reduced by regulation.

My friend who is an independent prescribing nurse in the NHS [which means she can go off-piste like a regular doctor writing arbitrary prescriptions, she's not just limited to a handful of standard recipes to solve well understood problems] says after she qualified her blow-out birthday party was entirely paid for by drug reps out of their marketing budgets. These days that would get them fired, and the best you can hope for is stress toys, stationery, that sort of thing.

When visiting the USA I turned on the TV just to watch an ad segment (didn't have to wait long) and I agree with the dystopian feel. Medical ads and also the attack ads (political or otherwise). It just made me want to say "piss off ads! promote a product or service but stay the hell away from my personal business". Big vibe of none-of-your-business, but like you say they just get in your face. It feels a little like being at a tourist market.

But I wasn't there to watch TV so I filed it as the next weird cultural artifact where the USA is in fact exactly as advertised worldwide on TV and film instead of made-up by a crazy screenwriter :)

Most sane countries forbid medicine/drug ads by law.

Norway also ban: Alcohol, smoke, gaming, all ads to children, all gun related, not allowed to count points in games before children are 13, credit card loans, all health related than can’t show scientific benefit..

> not allowed to count points in games before children are 12

So it's illegal in Norway for my 12-year-old cousin to beat my highscore in Pacman?

Maybe you're just not allowed toccount the points and have to pretend to let them win? :)

As organized sport, yes.

> Norway also ban: Alcohol, smoke, gaming

Gaming, as in like video games and board games are banned? Seriously?

Scandinavian translation difficulty: the word for a gambling game here is ‘spel’ or game (at least in Swedish), a video game is a ‘datorspel’ or computer game.

I am fairly certain they mean gaming as in gambling. Would be a bit weird to ban video game ads, surely?

Hard gaming vs Soft gaming

My typo - Should be gambling and all games involved money. The only one allowed is governmental and all the profit from that game go back to sports for kids, and “they” are closely monitoring that you don’t get gambling addicted to that game by forcing you to only play with a personal ID.

No. Gambling ads are not allowed though. Neither alcohol or smoking are banned, but ads for them are.

It's common usage in US English. eg, https://gaming.nv.gov/ do not regulate video games.

I recently visited the US for a conference. The moment I landed, I started getting medicine adverts on websites. It was rather jarring.

Gotta be prepared. It's like, if you go to Australia you have to wear sunblock. If you go to the USA, wear adblock.

I think both of these types are not allowed where I live (the Netherlands) because, you know, people shouldn't be getting their medical advice from advertising, for what I hope are obvious reasons.

I think he was worried about ads that were targeted at adults, but their game was targeted at kids.

Similar to how Spotify with ads includes Trojan condom commercials, which makes Spotify-with-ads unusable in many situations

Which is a moral panic can of worms all on it's own.

Not OP but I've had some thoughts on ads for a while that I've never shared:

1. Ads ruins user experience. This is pretty much an objective fact. People can and do adapt, but it's moving away from the ideal.

2. Ads often manipulates the user (emotionally, psychologically) to get clicks, which is just downright unethical.

3. Often unethical things are advertised, things that shouldn't even be on the market. These are usually rolled into an ad network, and ad embedders don't get a say in what's shown or not.

3. If we removed 99.99% (or maybe 100%) of all ads, I can't imagine that people will have a harder time purchasing what they need, when they need it.

Considering only points #1 and #4, there seems to be no harm in supporting ads in any way.

But #2 and #3 make it seem, to me at least, unethical to even work for a company whose business relies on ads.

I know a man who turned down a job opportunity discussion from Facebook this week for this exact reason, and I think that's noble, especially considering he's very poor and could use the raise.

Couldn't agree more on 2 and 3. What is even more unacceptable to me is that these ad networks track everything I do on the web. It is one thing that I see an ad for a laptop when I search for Chromebook (I'll call it contextual for ease) but totally different thing that I see ads for say Professional training when searching for Chromebook because I happened to click on a post on LinkedIn long ago. Other words, I don't like companies having a profile on me which they can use however the way they want at a later date.

That's a good fifth point that I didn't consider: ads inherently promote and encourage data collection in unscrupulously unethical ways.

Just as context, the vast majority of ad budgets are not tied to click through metrics. Ford & Coca Cola do not care a whit if you click on their ads.

The vast majority of advertising dollars are around a) brand recognition and b) spending to make sure that it’s the people they want to have brand recognition (for coke everyone, for Ford F-150 a particular demographic).

They believe this is important. They have years of evidence to prove it is & that you don’t think it works on you doesn’t matter to them.

The very fact that it works, is the reason it shouldn't be allowed.

They pay, your life changes, for their benefit. You have no say in it. It provably works even if you try to resist it, and don't consent to it.

Not a solution for everything, but focused websites/blogs (on guitar, camping, kayaking... Or even painting) can afford "ads" with no tracking (link to amazon products), or even invest some time to call specialized stores about single image ads without using any advertising network.

Links to amazon products are tracking vector number 1 and opting into one of the biggest ad networks.

> Do you morally disagree with advertising/tracking monetization as a whole or just those particularly geared towards vulnerable populations?

Irrespective of one's views on this, it's a controversial topic. Given children are minors, this decision shouldn't be forced on them by app developers.

I used not to, but after having been in a few research programs exploring the future of add-tech, I now think we should treat advertising as we do environmental pollutants, and the collection and monetization of personal data as a harmful substance business in need of extremely strict regulation.

I don’t know, but the only kind of advertisement I consider morally sound is a properly indexed, well described parts catalog with good resolution photos.

Think Mouser, DigiKey, Architonic...

>Luckily I realized quickly that kids play on the devices of parents and so the ads they might see are at times super inappropriate!

That was exactly what happen to my kids yesterday. I don't mind ads, but when they are inappropriate for the 5 years old I get really pissed off. And I wish Apple Arcade could come sooner so they don't get distracted with Ads.

It is the same reason I don't really allow them to watch Youtube unattended anymore. I wish there is some curated Kid Channel I can safely let them browse. ( Kid these days are extremely good with technologies )

I mean the solution already exists and has existed since app store day one, you could just only let them play paid for games right now today.

Not sure why you have to wait for Apple Arcade.

Well, there's Youtube Kids: https://www.youtube.com/kids/

And on iOS, you can use Guided Access to keep them in the app. Not sure about Android.

I let my kids try out YouTube kids and I thought all the content was total garbage. Mostly toy unboxing videos, video game walkthroughs, and creepy knockoffs of cartoons they liked. Deleted it very quickly. We stick to DVDs and Netflix now.

Yeah, there's youtube kids!




2018 you say? surely they've fixed things by now?




and that's why none of my kids' devices have youtube on them anymore

Just a warning, if anyone tries to use youtube kids, you'd better use whitelisting.

Yes Guided Access is great. I default it to a 20min timeout. So if I let my 8 year old play Minecraft on it, and he runs off to some corner of the house to binge, I don't have to worry about hunting him down. He'll get a nice warning around 3min out, and then the phone will essentially brick itself. It's great knowing that he will absolutely be coming back to me with the phone in 20min.

Check out Tankee (https://www.tankee.com/) if your kids are into games.

We use Hulu Kids, since it's just proper kids shows and not the mind-numbing unboxing and algorithmic crap on YouTube Kids.

Check out GoNoodle

> I removed all ads, I'd rather make less money but have people play and have a good time

I wish more developers would think this way!

Pretty sure sure I've never heard anyone say "the great thing about this game is all of the fun advertisements and cool micro-transactions."

I am not familiar with the ad space, but isn't there a provider/method/framework that would allow people embedding ads on their apps/websites/platforms to select the types or categories of ads they'd be comfortable with?

Kudos for interrogating your values and seeing your way to something you feel good about!

I completely agree with your position. I have turned down solicitations from both organizations you listed for exactly the same reasons. Working for any entity that engages in any sort of behavior that involves compromising user experience or privacy simply for sake of profit is not something I can consider at this time. I understand situations arise that are not profit-motivated which can't be avoided (federal investigations, service outages), but it is clear in the case of Facebook and Google what is going on. Compromising user privacy and interactions is their principal means of doing business.

> this includes turning down jobs at Google and Facebook

So did you actually interview with them already knowing that you would reject?

I think he means that:

1. He will not apply for jobs at Google and Facebook.


2. If attempted to be poached by Google and Facebook, he would decline any offer.

It could be that they interviewed with Google/Facebook and then afterward, but before accepting an offer, decided that they couldn’t abide by the moral situation.

Love that.

How did you market it / how did kids discover it?

What’s the game?

Link to the game please! Do you also provide donation-ware paid version? I see that as quite popular alternative to ads.

We had several children’s apps on iOS back when ads were allowed. We chose to only have a single ad in the parent accessible settings screen and nowhere else. Showing ads to kids simply did not align with our philosophy.

That a choice about advertising, not about third party advertising. Even if you had decided to have ads, as long as they were first party adds, the policy would have allowed you to continue to deluge kids with ads.

Here is the whole section

> 1.3 Kids Category

> The Kids Category is a great way for people to easily find apps that are designed for children. If you want to participate in the Kids Category, you should focus on creating a great experience specifically for younger users. These apps must not include links out of the app, purchasing opportunities, or other distractions to kids unless reserved for a designated area behind a parental gate. Keep in mind that once customers expect your app to follow the Kids Category requirements, it will need to continue to meet these guidelines in subsequent updates, even if you decide to deselect the category. Learn more about parental gates.

> Apps in the Kids Category may not include third-party advertising or analytics. You should also pay particular attention to privacy laws around the world relating to the collection of data from children online. Be sure to review the Privacy section of these guidelines for more information.

It appears to only apply to apps in the "Kids Category" so Candy Crush and the like can just say they are "adult"/not-kid-games and continue to be used by kids (while showing them ads and tracking them).

> Keep in mind that once customers expect your app to follow the Kids Category requirements, it will need to continue to meet these guidelines in subsequent updates, even if you decide to deselect the category.

I love this. You can't just follow kids guidelines to build up your user-base and then drop it in favor of ads and analytics. Once you follow it, you have to continue to follow it.

> I love this. You can't just follow kids guidelines to build up your user-base and then drop it in favor of ads and analytics. Once you follow it, you have to continue to follow it.

Me too. It shows that Apple gives serious thought to this kind of stuff before they do it, and it comes from a philosophical position rather than what is expedient (or a Strategy Credit as Thompson might call it)

This is more proof that apps and games are just another form of media. There are the same issues and conundrums dealing with children's media, as there are for books and television.

I wish there would appear a 2019 version of Children's Television Workshop which would produce wonderful media for the children of today. (Is it already happening in some form?)

Pretty much PBS Kids, "wonderful" being subjective in both directions, like anything.

PBS Kids includes 3rd party analytics

Whether something is the cultural successor to CTW isn't so much about the brand name. It's about quality, artistic integrity, and mission.

I'm kind of surprised by this thread. I understand that parents want to keep their kids away from a lot of topics and places, but I also remember how as a kid sought stuff like that out.

BBC CBeebies and CBBC is pretty goodd for kids programmes.

YouTube would be well advised to follow this model for videos intended for kids and anything on YouTube Kids outside of iOS.

On YouTube it’s not just the presence of ads that’s the problem, it’s the type of ads.

My kids were watching an obviously kids-themed kids-friendly YouTube video and were shown an ad for Walking Dead, with graphic scary zombies. My 4yo was covering her eyes in fear.

Like WTF Google.

Yeah I actually stopped allowing YouTube and YouTube Kids. YouTube has inappropriate ads, and YouTube Kids content is basically half ads in disguise (just people advertising toys and how they work).

Why can't things be like the Good Old Days when Raganwald was young. We watched Saturday Morning Cartoons, not played with apps.


Now that I think about it, Saturday Morning Cartoons were filled with advertising for sugar and violent toys, some of which was clearly labeled as advertising.

Guess the experience varies country to country but at least they generally reserved selling for the ad breaks. Unlike say a paid unboxing video.

By the 80s to 90s, a lot of popular kids shows were glorified ads for toy lines. For instance, 'Transformers' https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transformers.

Youtube is mainly just ads and advertorials. I now get a "breaking news" "recommendation" as well for some reason although I never watch news.

I get the feeling, but you must realize that preventing your children from using YouTube is like being the parent who prevented their children from watching television.

You're teaching your children about censorship.

It's easier, sure, but maybe it's worth the effort to have a mature conversation with them instead of wholesale preventing access to their generation's largest media platform.

How do you have a mature conversation with children who are unable to process (due to age) certain advanced concepts like marketing, advertising, monetization, irrelevancy, deception, exploitation, etc?

I don’t think they’re talking adolescents but rather toddlers and young children.

It isn't an easy conversation, and it's not one that happens over one discussion. It's something you have to actively teach them to understand while growing up.

When I was three I had already developed the basic sense that people can lie and that advertisements are made by people. I had already taught myself how to read and was reading at a junior high level before even entering preschool.

I have clear and distinct memories of all sorts of advertisements I viewed around that age, and my deconstruction of them. It is most certainly a skill that can be taught by then.

I'm not special. Most people take for granted what a child can accomplish and waste those precious developmental years treating them like idiots instead of people.

As for kids who can't even speak yet, I don't know why any parent would just plop them in front of a tablet device and YouTube. It's a literal propaganda platform and if your kid can't even form their own sentences then maybe you shouldn't be providing a direct link to bad actors who want to turn them into lifelong consumers.

To me your passage itself is an indicator that that’s not the level most three year olds are at. If it were then preschool would expect more from them and society would expect more and psychology would tell us these things. But they are all at odds with your anecdote, which while sincere, I don’t think we can generalize to the population.

No, Google/YouTube with all their resources and experts should do better.

> To me your passage itself is an indicator that that’s not the level most three year olds are at.

I think we can focus more heavily on pre-scholastic education without raising our expectations. No one ever expected me to do anything; my family tree is extremely anti-intellectual.

Despite the lack of expectations, I found the motivation to educate myself. The main driving motivation was fear of not being in control of myself or of being controlled by others, which I found knowledge could combat.

We don't typically instill this motivation in children, because largely as parents we just either don't know any better or don't have the motivation ourselves.

But I don't think that the average performance of a preschooler is indicative of the potential average performance. Too many factors come into play.

So without raising expectations, we can increase our attention to our children's developmental years, and instill within them the proper motivations by example.

Again, it isn't easy. And you're right, it doesn't completely generalize. Every person is unique.

But I'm shooting for the average here. On average, we take for granted the learning capacity of children, and take for granted how much the early phases of their childhood impacts the rest of their life.

To bring it back around, YouTube itself, in addition to tons of other online resources, has been a fundamental tool in my education. I would not nearly be where I am today without it. I can only imagine what I could have accomplished if YouTube as it is today existed in my youth.

I don't think we should be denying that to children.

I agree that Google needs to do better. It's that, or outside regulation will eventually creep in and turn the internet into the new TV.

Where I grew up most kids were actively trying to not learn anything or at least seem to not be learning. Getting good grades was basically a social life killer, so I see your case as an exception. Hopefully times have changed, but I don't have kids yet so I have no idea how it is now.

Obviously we need more scientific research, but it's my belief that these traits are imparted at a very young age and most parents just bungle it up.

Like I said, we can't use the current average performance as an indicator of potential average performance.

Kids used to start working on family farms rather early in life. Not a full day of working but doing things here and there.

Yes, I was one of them. I've helped manage livestock and produce since before I was enrolled in school.

I've seen a three year old kid smart enough to skip youtube ads by hitting the back button and restarting the video immediately afterwards. We, along with his parents and their friends, were quite impressed. Some kids reject ads naturally, because like us, they just aren't interested.

Children are smarter than you think.

Simple. Tell your child, "Don't worry. Nothing you see on a screen is real."

That will immunize them from everything from zombies to pornography to Fox News.

That doesn’t sound mature and also is dismissive of psychological manipulation, etc. It’ll be as effective as saying, “don’t be afraid of the dark, there are no monsters, that’s just your imagination.”

That doesn’t sound mature

(Shrug) Don't tell me, tell Plato. He came up with the notion.

It’ll be as effective as saying, “don’t be afraid of the dark, there are no monsters, that’s just your imagination.”

That's pretty effective, and something almost every parent has to tell their child at one point or another. What do you recommend saying instead?

Somewhat fitting, because Plato presented the Cave Allegory specifically to illustrate "the effect of education and the lack of it on our nature".

However, the Allegory was about how our senses and perceptions limit our full understanding of the world, not the fact that things we see on a television or stage are not real.

The former is a philosophical concept, the latter is just good advice.

However, the Allegory was about how our senses and perceptions limit our full understanding of the world

That's my whole point. As a parent, you not only have the authority to tell your kids not to believe anything they see on a screen or hear through a speaker, you must raise them with that understanding. They will spend their entire lives with their senses and perceptions not only limited in a Platonic sense, but under active, continuous assault.

"Somewhat fitting," indeed: https://news.stanford.edu/2019/06/05/edit-video-editing-text...

I'm not sure you understand what I'm saying.

Plato wasn't making a case for discerning fact from fiction using obviously fictitious sources (literature, dramas, TV, your friend Rob, etc).

He was illustrating that our own senses and perceptions prohibit us from seeing reality in an objective nature.

He compared the escaped prisoner to an enlightened philosopher, who has learned to use his mind and abstract thinking in order to see what his eyes cannot.

Plato isn't saying, "Don't believe what you read in the newspaper," he is saying, "Don't trust your eyes and ears at all, because your entire reality might be false."

That doesn't very much help a kid understand not to believe what he sees in advertisements or to distrust friendly faces who want to control them.

Either we're talking past each other, or you haven't put all that much thought into the implications of the whole "shadows on the cave wall" metaphor. You're right in that Plato wasn't offering us advice for distinguishing fact from fiction. He was saying that as far as anyone can prove, it's all fiction.

Basically, I'm saying that instead of being prisoners, we have entered the cave voluntarily, and have delegated our senses to the wall. In addition to Plato's puppeteer, the one unavoidable agent of indirection between us and objective reality, we now have two, our senses and our screens.

If you treat screens and speakers as if they are literal manifestations of the cave wall, it's no longer an abstract philosophical point. I'm saying that the only responsible thing I can tell a child is to believe nothing they see on a screen until they're old enough to argue with me about it.

Agree,not sure what kind of logic they apply. My 2 years old often finds herself watching some creepy monster ad,while the video she just watched before was Peppa Pig or something.

Also don't forget the whole "elsagate" debacle where lots of kids videos were highly inappropriate and sexual content disguised with super hero costumes.

Would you let your children read random tabloid crap and ad flyers? No, you'd build a safe library filled with interesting, educational and valuable books.

So why won't you do this with digital media? An okay NAS costs about a same as year YT subscription, and there is a lot of great content.

One of the many reasons I'll be setting up a NAS and the only video streaming my kid will be allowed to use before ~10 will be a personally curated collection of youtube-dl'ed videos, on a device that's connected only to the house LAN (directly or via VPN when roaming).

Yup, and parents can just install one of the Kids-Category clones of candy crush that will inevitably show up.

Which will include no ads, so: yay! Mission accomplished.

No third-party ads.

So what services are exempt from this ban? Does Apple offer a first-party advertisement plugin?

Not anymore, IIRC. Presumably, app developers would be allowed to sell their own ads in some fashion.

If the app developer has 3rd party advertising clients can they sell those ads? What about "affiliate" ads? Where is the line here?

Here is some past work from our research group on a machine learning classifier to identify apps for kids.


The title, app description, screenshots, and icon give a lot of signals as to whether an app is targeting kids or not. In particular, icons and screenshots that use a lot of primary colors was a pretty good signal, though app description was the best feature.

These apps will be nearly impossible to monetize. No ads, but also basically no in-app purchases either. I doubt many children will see a parental gate and actually do what it asks. They'll just treat it like a dead-end and close the app to find something else to play with. This category will be entirely populated by totally free apps that are created solely for branding purposes or funded by NGOs to push an agenda, with a very small number of apps created by uncompromised people who sincerely want to make the world a better place for children.

> nearly impossible to monetize. No ads, but also basically no in-app purchases either.

How about a paid app? Charge what it costs to create once. The old model worked fine before the advent of IAP and adware. If the app is good, people would pay for it. Esp. if now there's a specific category for discovery!

There's a disconnect between who plays/uses the app and who pays. How do you know that it's worth the money if you're not going to play it?

Make the first level free, charge for subsequent levels.

That would require in-app purchases, no?

Or a free/paid app pair. Think old shareware games from the '90s, for example Doom2 1.9 shareware.

Why should the parents not play an app they give to their child?

Why do they ban third-party advertising in particular? It seems like advertising should be allowed as long as it's display only with no outward information flow. Basically ads equivalent OTA television or magazine ads should be allowed.

In general, I believe it's based on the belief that children in partiular don't yet have the necessary mental tools to be able to properly analyze content -- basically, that they're influenced by media to a much higher degree than adults.

> Basically ads equivalent OTA television or magazine ads should be allowed

I would guess that proponents of this approach also feel that the contents of TV/magazine ads should be strictly controlled (and probably they are -- I'm not sure what the exact regulations around these are, but I am sure it's much harder to publish a blatantly misleading magazine or TV ad, without consequences to the advertiser or the network/magazine, than it is to publish one online).

Not just a belief, it's been studied many times, and it is in fact illegal to have "native" advertising on children's TV shows, at least in the U.S.

Almost all cartoons aimed at kids hope to make money on related merchandise. A lot of animated shows were cancelled because while the ratings were good, they skewed toward older teens and adults that didn't buy toys. Two that come to mind are "Young Justice" and the original "Teen Titans". Cartoon Network specifically made "Teen Titans Go!" to skew younger.

This isn't a new thing, they killed off most of the Transformers in the 80s movie so they could introduce a new line of characters/toys.

I think this ability to filter is less a binary switch and more of a scale - people of any age can have trouble resisting advertising and so we just generally need to rethink our stance on what sorts of advertising we allow.

Then why are first-party ads allowed?

They’re requiring that the app publisher has editorial control over the ads that appear next to their content. This is a shift back to how things work in pre-internet media and ensures that any damage done by an inappropriate ad (whether by Apple, a government, or market forces) falls squarely on someone that had both the responsibility and means to block said problematic ad.

I hope this is step one, and that first-party ads are step two or three.

Humans never do. Trump's Russian propagandists is a classic example.

This just gives Apple more power to pick winners and losers

Honestly all advertising targeted to children should be banned. It's just not fair. Children don't stand a chance against marketing crafted by adults. You're pitting the mind of a child against that of a trained, professional, adult marketer. The kid is their clay to be molded.

> Children don't stand a chance against marketing crafted by adults.

Nobody can stand a chance against someone well-versed in applied psychology (i.e. a marketer).

Especially that it's really you vs. a whole industry of well-paid professionals weaponizing psychological research.

The fact that so much advertising barely works is the basis of Google's entire business model. The idea that adverts are all made by masters of psychological manipulation is laughable - most of it is considered successful of it just manages to get the name noticed and remembered at all.

This seems to be getting missed, but those kids apps are serving ads for adults. Google has gone way out of their way to make it confusing to block mobile ads (you used to have to add a blacklist domain.) Last year they removed support for that and required advertisers to check an option within the ad campaign. Earlier this year they removed that option.

This is a win for advertisers, a loss for publishers and ad networks making money from mis-targeted ads.

adults don't stand a chance either.

> Honestly all advertising targeted to children should be banned

When it comes to TV, some countries like Sweden and Norway do this. It seems the legislation hasn't caught up to the Internet though, and it may be difficult when the content comes from abroad.

Presumably because third party insertion doesn't give the app creators sufficient control over what's shown. This happens all the time. Forbes.com starts serving malware and then cry "we didn't know! the third party guys just put whatever in that box!"

So it's not (just) the outward flow of information, but the additional policing burden of a separate inward flow of graphics.

That makes a lot of sense.

Because no ad network is trustworthy. It avoids stories like "developer's labour of love banned over ad network that resold space to ad network that resold space to ad network that put an inappropriate ad".

Marco Arment created his own ad platform that he curates for the Overcast podcast player partially for that reason and he didn't want random binary blobs shipping with his code.

"Developer's labor of love taken over by a publisher that got acquired by Evil Corp which allowed anyone to buy ads on their platform."

Children are not mature enough to understand that advertisements are lies meant to sell products, and can believe the content of the advertisements are true.

This is harmful to society, particularly as young children are not capable of making purchasing decisions anyways - this is adversarial brainwashing of the most vulnerable.

That's true of advertising in general and not third party advertising in particular.

Somebody else posted what I think is the correct answer - it removes the possibility of a third party showing inappropriate content to kids.

Most likely to limit and control the ability to track this category of users.

I'm interpreting this as third party targeting, not that you can't use a third party handle the process of targeting, serving, and billing ads.

If they are saying that the game company has to have their own ad platform that basically means only Google and Facebook will be able to release ad supported child targeted games on iOS in the future, which doesn't really make any sense to me.

If they choose to interpret the rule as "no ad-supported child-targeted games on iOS, period," that sounds good to me. I hope they do.

It sounds simple but one of the biggest frustrations is that kids accidentally click the ads which take you out of the app into something else. And constantly get confused.

Hence it also requires the apps not to have external links etc.

Obviously, but where do you want to go with that? Are you suggesting that because kids can use any app on a phone that all tracking and ads should be banned?

With all due respect, this is the kind of self-evident truth that I find it weird people use as "yeah, is that what you REALLY want?" Yes, that is what I want. I think society would be much better off without this kind of rubbish, and stuff the financial backers of this amoral race to the optimised bottom.

I realize you are not the original poster but it sounds like your view would be the same even if we lived in a world without children. In this case it’s not really about helping children it is about advancing your desired outcome and that annoys me a bit.

The bigger issue is do you really think things will be better this way. Services like Google Search, Maps, newspapers would all become pay-walled. I honestly would personally like this outcome, as I have enough income to pay an extra $20-30 / month for these features. However for those in poverty 15-20% in the US and much more world wide this would be a major hardship. I really don’t think we want all of these currently ad supported things to be pay only in future, which is the inevitable outcome of banning advertising.

OK, perhaps that was a little intemperate. But "Are you suggesting that because kids can use any app on a phone that all tracking and ads should be banned?" felt a bit like a conversation where someone is arguing against the death penalty and someone else says "Yeah, so you want murderers to go free?" There are lots of other possibilities, and if advertising and tracking is a on a spectrum from respectful to abusive we're currently way, way over towards the abusive end.

But in monetary terms, what do these “free” services cost to various populations? The advertisers believe that paying for the service is turning them a profit, so someone is paying more for the advertised products than they used to. Is this a case of people with disposable income subsidizing everyone else, or one of manipulating vulnerable populations to spend their money unwisely?

In reality, it is neither people with disposable income subsidizing everyone else nor manipulating vulnerable populations to spend their money unwisely.

Much like with trade, advertising isn't necessarily a zero sum game. Nor is it the same experience for everyone. I suspect your perception of advertising is distorted by your own context.

A high income individual might see advertising as targeting their disposable income and attempting to get them to spend more of it... because that's what will really move the needle for the advertiser with that customer. But it's a totally different experience for advertising's impact on low-income consumers.

Amongst lower income folks little if any of their spending is disposable income; that's not going to move the needle for an advertiser. What might move the needle is the non-disposable income, particular for staple consumer packaged goods (CPG) like food, clothing, cleaning products, etc.

The goal isn't to get lower income folks to spend more of their income at all, because that isn't an option. The only way to reliably get low income consumers to spend more money is to give them more money to spend. In most cases, all or almost all their income is going to be spent even without advertising. When you are hungry and on a limited budget, an ad isn't going to convince you to spend more money on food, but it might change your mind about what you decide to eat. So advertisers aren't trying to convince poorer folks to spend more of their disposable income, but rather to choose to spend their non-disposable income with the advertiser instead of a competitor.

While advertisers may be attempting to manipulate an audience, lower income folks aren't so vulnerable. You can show them as many ads as you want for yachts, they aren't going to buy one. The more vulnerable audiences are those with more choices, not fewer.

Stronger players in a market tend to be able to afford more on marketing, which can mean that advertising ensures those consumers are aware of the stronger players in the market. Consumers consequently have learned to treat extensive marketing as an easily detectable proxy signal for that strength, which, despite its pitfalls, is often more reliable than other signals (unfortunately, targeting can undermine this a bit by making an advertising seem more pervasive to a targeted audience than it really is, but overall it remains more true than not).

Brand awareness advertising in particular tends to increase the importance of providing a successful product experience to those lower income populations, because those populations are more risk adverse to a disappointing experience (one can't just buy more food if the stuff one spent the last of one's paycheck on turns out to be terrible). Consequently, even though lower-income consumers might have a lower expected customer lifetime value, an advertiser might be more concerned that a negative experience with them, as the damage to the brand image might be far more lasting.

If you have a non-staple CPG good, your revenue isn't going to be coming from consumer's non-disposable income, so you're going to naturally disenfranchise consumers who don't have much if any disposable income. You won't care about their needs or their complaints. Maybe if you are creative, you might increase margins on your product so you can find some way to give away your product to those without disposable income, thereby having people with disposable income subsidize everyone else. Unless...

...you make your product ad supported. Now you might derive much of your revenue stream by appealing to a customer base with no disposable income, because you are getting paid by an advertiser with a product that might target non-disposable income... and even if those consumers are being influenced by the advertising, they aren't going to be spending money they wouldn't spend anyway (not a choice available to them), and while it is far from certain, they are more likely to be getting better value for that money.

So one can argue that advertising makes advertisers and ad supported products more sensitive to the needs of lower income populations who do not have disposable income.

I didn’t intend to signal a blanket disagreement with ‘lotu, but rather to indicate that their position rests on assumptions that don’t necessarily hold for all cases.

I actually agree with most everything you say here, except for grouping all advertising together. Some ads are generally helpful for all the reasons you list here; others are incredibly predatory. To move the conversation forward, we need to move past “ads are good” vs “ads are evil” and start talking about the benefits and drawbacks of particular kinds of ads.

What Apple’s doing here seems like a good start to me— they’re reinforcing the idea that (app) publishers can and should exercise editorial control over the ads their app displays, and having somebody to hold accountable for bad decisions is a prerequisite for any meaningful discussion of what is and isn’t appropriate.

Yeah, I don't have a lot of disagreement with your points either...

I didn't intend to group all ads together, but rather speak broadly of the aggregate effect of advertisers. No question there are predatory ads.

I would say though that publishers can and should exercise editorial control over ads & analytics in their apps... even if they are using 3rd parties. What tends to happen is that they choose NOT to in all but the most egregious cases (and even then...), because of the impact on their bottom line.

I think we should educate our kids against ads. They will reject ads anyway when they grow up.

I think where it is going is just fine.

The reduction of tracking and ads is a good thing, but that there is going to be a FAANG that is explicitly encouraging this is great news.

I would prefer if the market itself forced out tracking and ads. Provide a space for it and that space can compete with everything else and if we're lucky will wildly outcompete the competition.

This is the kind of walled garden I want to see. One with high walls and a door.

The market is never going to do that at large - but I hope someone somewhere manages to kill tracking and third party data-reselling into non-existence.

> The market is never going to do that at large - but I hope someone somewhere manages to kill tracking and third party data-reselling into non-existence.

Overall the market is moving away from third-party now, as it's simply a lot less effective. Everyone in the industry wants to be working with first-party data.

If you think about it Apple is basically the corporate manifestation of GDPR. They can just decide whatever they want and everyone has to comply or get out. In the real world someone has to file a complaint with the DPC, it gets investigated, gets appealed for years.


That's correct, and quite terrible IMO - I'd prefer to have a non-private entity serving as the gate keeper to walled gardens like these... or just not have walled gardens.

If you're saying that it's terrible because government haven't stepped in to legislate rather than relying on corporate entities like Apple to protect privacy, I agree.

Then use Android. No one is preventing you.

I think it's great, refreshing even.

> The reduction of tracking and ads is a good thing, but that there is going to be a FAANG that is explicitly encouraging this is great news.

It would be a mistake to think this is going to reduce tracking and ads. What it will do is reduce third party tracking and ads. The effect will likely be an increase in poor quality track & ads, as well as encourage consolidation in the mobile app space as those FAANG companies can provide higher quality tracking & ads then small startups who cannot invest as much in their own tracking & ad implementation.

> This is the kind of walled garden I want to see. One with high walls and a door.

It'll be a walled garden alright, but I think not quite what you imagine. It'll be a less competitive market place with far greater barriers to entry.

> that all tracking and ads should be banned?

that would be fantastic!

Then we can go back to the time where we simply paid for software with money instead of with privacy (such as tracking or PII) or time/focus (advertising).

If there is one company of FAANG who's up for this task -and can beat Google at their game- it is Apple.

Why do we expect one of the other 4 oligopolists to save us?

Also, I have serious doubts that Apple can beat Google - and it certainly won't be "at their own game" (which is advertising).

Because people have fully inculcated the notion David cannot beat Goliath, so now we have to hope that the lesser evil "wins".

> Then we can go back to the time where we simply paid for software with money instead of with privacy (such as tracking or PII) or time/focus (advertising).

A time when the digital divide was vast & software companies had no reason to heed the interests of those without disposable income... ;-)

The digital divide was vast because computers cost thousands of dollars and the Internet was something available only to corporations and universities. As a result, most of the paid software out there was targeted at rich users for professional work and priced accordingly.

BTW, how are ads incentivizing user-focused development? Look at the Top 100 apps in any apps store, and tell me they're not virtual clones of Clash of Clans, Plants v Zombies and Candy Crush. Every developer is heeding self-interest first.

So, I wouldn't say that ads incentivize user-focused development. I'm saying the incentivize paying attention to the needs/interests/desires/etc. of lower-income users. Without ads, almost all software shops would be better off ignoring that market segment entirely.

Do you really think you'd have so many developers, competing so aggressively with each other in an attempt to appeal to millions of people with a collective negative disposable income, the bulk of which is probably not spent on software at all? No. Even if you were hugely successful, you'd be lucky to get enough income to pay a developer's salary.

iPhones have kids mode that prevents the kid from using any app on the phone. That will probably only deter toddlers, but it's something.

>That will probably only deter toddlers

Is this actually true? Jailbreaks haven't been persistent in the face of updates in a long while, so for devices kept up to date it's possible to lock down an iPhone fairly hard. I haven't investigated how parent control compares to full MDM, but the supervision capabilities now in iOS [1] are pretty powerful. For better and for worse of course, that kind of control over user devices, particularly in the context of parents and children, is definitely a double edged sword. But compared to typical computers I don't think it should be lightly dismissed either as something kids can just get around. They aren't open systems.


1: https://www.apple.com/business/resources/docs/Managing_Devic...

I figure older kids can use tactics like social hacking -- ie, whine at mom until she unlocks it.

No, looks like it is just the apps targeted at kids.

So far the only kids apps I've used with my little one is 'Sesame Street' and 'PBS Kids Video'. He loves Elmo, and its very handy in the pediatrician's waiting room to have a distraction.

I also run a PiHole, and to my displeasure, I've found both these apps use Google Analytics. PBS Kids Video goes a few steps further and uses Google AdWords as well as ScorecardResearch analytics. These publicly funded apps are siphoning data about me and my little one off to 3rd parties. The 3rd paries might not be able to use that data for targeted advertising within the app, but make no mistake that the data is still used to 'enrich' my shadow profiles. I am very excited about these changes from Apple and I hope that they are able to enforce them. I've written both of the apps support emails in the past about the analytics and never received a response.

I've also heard of a popular BBC kids app called CBeebies. Last time I ran it on my iPhone, it reached out to Facebook, Localytics, Branch.io, Google Analytics, app-measurement.com, and onesignal.com

Also, PBS Kids Video straight up wouldn't play videos at all unless I whitelisted certain analytics domains.

ABC (the Australian equivalent of BBC) too. The web player sends data to gigya, newrelic and googlegadgetmanager. The news site adds (just the front page) adds jwpcdn, chartbeat and loggly. The live stream are from scribly or someone and often the content of them is embedded twitter, so our national government funded news service isn't even hosting much of their own content and it's unavailable to many that have sites like twitter blocked at world. The don't even have the profit motive excuse that commercial sites have.

I dislike tracking as much as anyone, but can you really fault them for using Google analytics? It's not like PBS choose to use them "to profit off the viewers".

This is the problem, its just convenient and free. People are not thinking about the costs to the end consumer - which in this case is our children. I don't really fault PBS, but I do fault the advertising companies for our general lack of privacy and control over our own data. I also fault the politicians for turning a blind eye to it. I hope Apple's new strategy to go after privacy pays off in a big way and more companies fall in line with it. Or at very least more people begin to think about the trade-offs before blindly injecting google analytics into everything. Self-hosted analytics that does not feed into an advertising giant is not unobtainable goal.

I think most people do realize the cost, and are simply unconcerned with giving google such critical information as "kids watch sesame street".

But it's not 'kids watch sesame street' that you're sending to Google. What you're sending is:

* This phone is used by a kid

* $user has children (through association with other devices used at the same location and IP)

* $kid lives at $address (even when it doesn't know the location of $kid's phone, it knows the location of other devices using the same IP)

* $kid goes to $school (using location data from your or your SO's phone when dropping of your kid).

* etc. etc.

A lot of information can be inferred by knowing which other users are associated with a child.

Depending on the apps, you could make some age assumptions of the kid too. Even more, perhaps extrapolate the number of children in the household based on the age-ranges of the apps and the behavior of how they are using the apps. A 3 year old and and a 5 year old are going to have very different usage patterns. The number of children and their age ranges could be a very important metric when considering targeted advertising to the parents. The fact is, this information is used against the consumer to manipulate them into doing things they wouldn't otherwise do - click an ad and perhaps make a purchase. Any bit of information to further that goal will be used, even better if its information about the children since that's a major purchasing factor for parents.

You think wrong, because it's not just one app.

In fact, so many apps embed these analytics frameworks, that it's possible to make an almost complete picture of what a device was used for every day, including location information, etc on the back-end.

I have a stupid question, why don't they use something like Matomo instead?

GA today is much more than just pageview analytics. With something like Google Tag Manager, you can have non-technical staff add in event tracking for stuff like form completion or file downloads, without needing to get developers involved. Reporting for stakeholders is also robust because of its integration with Google Data Studio, Google Sheets and other related tools.

Ultimately though, GA wins because these organizations outsource web development and digital marketing work to agencies or contractors, and they are the ones that make the tooling decisions. GA is a known quantity, so even if their contract isn't renewed, a new agency will be able to take over the account fairly frictionlessly.

And there are more contractors that are GA-focused than there are for Matomo, and that's important when you're tasked with shopping around for agencies.

"Nobody ever got fired for choosing ___" (fill in the blank with whatever the incumbent is for some technology)

Yes. Do it yourself or don't. Besides that, has any good feature come from using GA?

For the record, all of my projects use self hosted analytics.

But you have to understand, the marketing team wants analytics. You can request to allocate engineers to setup a server with motamo, which will require replication, setup, maintaince, etc.

Your project manager is going to say "Wait this is going to take X man hours, require maintenance, etc? Why don't we just use GA like everyone does, like we always have, as it's free, has builtin redundancy, requires no maintaince, and can be added in 5 minutes?"

They aren't going to even think about privacy. Most consumers don't even care (although they should).

To answer your question though: Instant setup, ease of use, zero-maintance, zero-cost, and it's an industry standard. Literally the only downside is less-flexibility (mostly only applicable to programmers/power users) and privacy issues, which again, not very many consumers or companies care about this form of privacy (but again they should be).

Have you considered a write-up of the issues with the CBeebies app? The BBC is the kind of organisation that might quite easily be shamed into removing those.

Well, theoretically, they will have to remove these to remain in the AppStore with the new guidelines. I hope Apple is able to enforce it.

True, although I presume there's an Android version too...

I think we are overloading what we mean by analytics and the purpose of it. Its not all about collecting profiles of users for advertising. It also about understanding the usage of your application. The BBC should absolutely by tracking the usage of their apps to ensure what the are producing has value, the just shouldn't allow that data to be used for third parties and their ad business. Note that BBC UK apps, and worldwide operate under different schemes.

It's not the fact that they're trying to understand how people use the app, it's that they're using services like Facebook and thereby syphoning more personal data towards corporate entities that have a genuinely terrible track record when it comes to using and abusing people's data.

If I'm not mistaken, Google Analytics isn't used for tracking/targeting across apps and a browser or app beaming statistics won't have that page visit associated with their google account. You don't even need to tick "my app uses the advertisement tracking ID" during app store distribution if you just embed Google analytics.

> These publicly funded apps are siphoning data about me and my little one off to 3rd parties.

If you need some pearls to clutch, there’s an app for that. Unfortunately it contains Google Analytics and ScorecardResearch analytics.

I mean how much can there be to know about a kid? Loves Elmo? Oh better show it ads for Elmo lmao.

You can know who their contacts are and where they are for instance.

Apps do request these permissions, sometimes for legitimate reasons and analytics frameworks then take advantage of that data: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/12/10/business/loca...

What contacts does a toddler have?

Kids under 2 should not even use devices, we're talking about older kids.

Furthermore, those older kids are almost certainly using their parents' device.

Dropping adds seems good to me, but dropping analytics doesn't seem great from a game dev perspective. New features and game balance is often driven by analytics data. For example, if no one's using a certain feature in the game then maybe it needs more attention brought to it or maybe attention won't be focused on it for the next update.

I understand that there's a fine line between game analytics and farming PII but I think it's an important line. I'm sad to see Apple forcing you to use a first-party analytics solution. Smaller indie devs often won't have the time to set up their own data pipeline and depend on things like Unity Analytics or Flurry to help them do data analysis.

I guess I should start a service that provides small indie devs with "first party" analytics. I provide the software, it runs on a server dedicated to you, your data is separate from anyone else's. That's first-party, right? But I suppose I would have to charge 3x more for that than Amplitude does.

There are a few OSS projects that do this. I am not sure how well they integrate with mobile apps though.


I agree, the part about analytics sounds like a bad news, given that there's no fine line... Also, I'm very curious how would they impose it? Suppose I still want to use my analytics provider as a SaaS, but will just relay traffic to it via my servers, and would only use that analytics for game tuning - how would Apple know about it?..

Another problem is that nowadays each app usually uses quite a few 3rd party libs/services, and each one of them may have analytics of one sort or another, even when the app doesn't explicitly use them for that, f.e. Crashlytics, Firebase, Logentries... With a strict approach there, I'd be worried about stability of kids apps, if devs would be forced to disable those services...

As you point out, the rule doesn't prevent ads or analytics. It just prohibits third party ads or analytics. Cynically, one might say that prohibits best-of-breed ads or analytics. ;-)

It's not hard to see how this might turn out to be a case of a policy that sounds good, but in practice is a disaster.

Google please steal this idea.

Edit: current policy is

"Ads in your app that are served to children need to be appropriate and served from an ads network that has certified compliance with our families policies."

See https://android-developers.googleblog.com/2019/05/building-s...

Considering the state of the play store and such ... probably nobody is paying attention.

A year ago I would have agreed but a lot has happened lately.

Play store went from 3.2m to 2.6m apps last year. When it comes to rejecting apps that violate their tos they are pretty trigger happy.

I feel like they're trigger happy... but via automation and scripts that I'm not sure are getting that much.

Like the volume is down, but for all I know it's just the same actors getting the same stuff out there.

It's really hard to tell.

I thick they are starting to do some good.

For what it's worth, Apple QA is also mostly automated.

It would be interesting to know how Apple's automation works as the impression (may not be accurate) is their approval or denying is a bit more precise.

I have had hobby games I made when learning taken down several times for violating the TOS. Just resubmitting with an extra config box checked is enough to get back on.

I got hit by the for kids advertisement thing despite not advertising or tracking in any way because I had not set it up to either be explicitly for kids or not.

I feel they put more attention to competitors than to moral objection to content.

My anecdotal experience shows this policy is complete bullshit or not enforced at all. Last summer spent time using a Google Play game for kids ages 10+ - The ads we overtly sexual and completely inappropriate for kids under 18. I screenshotted and tweeted it at Google and ... crickets. The developer who made the game was Pixonic: https://pixonic.com

As a parent of 3 children and owner of multiple iPads and Android devices (including a kids edition Fire Tablet) this really strikes a chord with me. We buy the Toca Boca and Sago Mini games and the occasional game from other providers that strike the kids fancy.

But this is a huge development. Big enough that I'll be dropping the Android devices and switching my kids over to Apple ones completely. As it is I have lots of conversations with them regarding why some games they see will never be bought by us (like those awful Thomas and Friends ones that you have to buy then still have ads and IAP to put up with).

Thank you Apple. But also, shame on you industry for making this something that I need to specifically look out for.

What do those conversations sound like with Thomas age kids? If you’ve got tips, metaphors, known failure, anything at all on how to create a class level understanding that short circuits per instance debates I’m all ears.

LOL. I ended up going overboard on it and actually took them to a store for Teachers' materials and bought some exercise books on Media and Currency/Finances and we've ended up with a bunch of discussions about personal finances, the advertising world, and critical thinking. I'm trying to instil in them the ability to analyze what they see, understand what the motivations of others are and translate that to the messages they receive.

If all goes well they'll understand what ads are and how they manipulate us from a young age and be better able to deal with this crazy world as they grow older. Of course this is a long game - I don't know if I'm being successful yet but I'm hopeful.

Because I am weird and because most of our video consumption on the TV does not involve old school ad blocks, I started my daughter pretty early (late 3/ early 4) on the idea that ads are “trying to sell us things we don’t need” when we saw them on TV. Then it was ... fairly easy to extrapolate that to the idea we don’t buy apps/ games that are covered in ads. It’s not perfect, but it works pretty well and she seems to understand there is a whole class of apps we will not buy even if she doesn’t have a deep appreciation of Why. We shall see how long that works.

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