Ad blockers for iOS have been a hot topic lately, after the Peace ad blocker was removed from the Apple Store by its developer.
In a surprising turn of events, Apple Store now offers an app that keeps ads away even from native Apple software. To accomplish that, the Been Choice app uses a VPN service. It routes traffic to Been Choice's servers, where ads are filtered out so that the user only gets the content of the app on his display. The developers are Dave Yoon and Sang Shin, who worked together for the last eight years at McKinsey & Co.
One of iOS 9's selling points is the fact that it supports content blocking extensions in Safari, which speed up Internet browsing while saving battery life.
Been Choice seems a blessing for users who are tired of closing unwanted announcements and advertisements, but there is more than meets the eye. The ad blocker allows users to share their data freely with advertising companies, and in return they receive cash and, in the near future, gift cards. The app permits users to toggle quickly between the ad-blocking and data-disclosure modes.
"It's an implicit agreement, and neither side benefits and both sides are left wanting more. More privacy and control on one side. More data and better data on the other. By providing a simple switch we are creating choice," Yoon stated.
The creators of the app admit that the quantity of data shared while in Earn mode is massive.
"It's absolutely more data. And that's what we set out to build," he pointed out. "We think if you have consent from the user, and share economics with the user, you can gather better data. But the key question is consent."
"Reasonable steps to remove all personally identifiable information" were taken, the company declared.
Another counterintuitive aspect of the ad-blocker resides in the monetary implications for Apple. Ads are the main income source for many global developers, and an important share of them creates iOS apps. iPhone and iPad users who install Been Choice would cut down Apple Store's revenue directly, since the app eliminates ads from the native Facebook app, as well as those of Pandora and New York Times. This applies to the sponsored stories present in CNN's app, as well. Only Twitter, thanks to its end-to-end encryption, gets a free pass.
Yoon and Shin's app is very ambitious endeavor, as it aims to reach two radically different demographics. Those who disdain ads and wish to see none, regardless of app or platform, and those who are eager to make an extra buck from selling their personal data.
While Been Choice remains in the Apple Store, advertisers and users will get a better grasp at how much their personal data is worth.