User Tracking, App Store Compliance & ASO

Earlier this year, Facebook found itself at the center of a firestorm when it released an app that let it monitor everything users sent or did on their phones. The app, called Facebook Research, was designed to gather information on usage habits. Although it did offer users payments in exchange for their data, it was still given to users as young as 13. When Apple removed it, the company also revoked Facebook’s ability to publish apps like it. However, Facebook recently announced that it is recruiting participants to try a similar app on Google Play – this can provide an important lesson about working within the rules and guidelines of the App Store and Google Play Store to maintain a presence.

Facebook Research

After Facebook Research was removed from the App Store, Facebook began looking for a new way to approach marketing research. This involved a few steps:

  • Upfront notice regarding the collection of information
  • Monetary incentives for users
  • Users must opt-in and be 18 or older

Additionally, Facebook is only offering this application on Google Play. Apple recently updated its App Store Review Guidelines, including new restrictions on gathering user data. Apps that compile information must have explicit consent, even if the data is deleted immediately after and not shared. Additionally, apps cannot gather “information about which other apps are installed on a user’s device for the purposes of analytics or advertising/marketing.”

Although Facebook’s new research app does request permission and provide clear information on how the data is being gathered, it is still gathering sensitive information for user research, which is against Apple’s policy.

Compliance & App Stores

Putting the app on Google Play after Apple banned it may be seen as similar to a person asking permission from their mother after their father said no, but in this case, it is still a viable method for reaching an app audience.

There are several apps only available on one store or another, due to differences in guidelines and policies. It’s important to look at the App Store and Play Store policies closely and ensure that you’re compliant with them – often times it is possible to adjust an app to be in compliance with both stores. In some cases, where the explicit purpose of the app is not allowed on one store (such as the case is with Facebook Research) it may be necessary to upload it to one only.

It is also important that apps are open about the data they gather and how it’s used. Facebook has been known to misuse user data or leave it vulnerable, which has caused difficulties for its reputation in the past. In cases like this, apps should be upfront in their descriptions and onboarding about how the app gathers and uses data, in addition to letting users opt in upon installation.

Not all users will want to share their data, so being upfront may prevent some conversions. That is fine – those users would still uninstall the app after learning what it does. They may also leave angry reviews saying they were tricked or lied to. This would be a greater negative for the app and its ASO than losing the potential installation.

While there is still some debate over the ethics of Facebook’s research app, it’s clear that it’s learning from the trouble it had on Apple’s App Store. It’s paying close attention to the App Store and Play Store Guidelines to ensure its app is compliant, providing upfront information, receives permission from users and offers a monetary incentive. If it didn’t, it would be at risk of being removed from the Play Store as well.

Want more information regarding App Store Optimization? Contact Gummicube and we’ll help get your strategy started.

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