I really enjoyed the response Greg Yardly, Co-Founder of iPhone stats tracking package developer Pinch Media, gave in response to my link to a story about what sort of data Pinch Media collects from iPhone users for its clients. (Reproduced in part here, but you should really read the whole thing):
Every single person who installs an iPhone application consents to data collection in advance - it's right there in the default EULA Apple's provided so developers don't have to hire lawyers before publishing something. So unlike Boing Boing, the developer actually has gotten your consent beforehand.
Analytics provide a useful function - they help keep costs low by allowing developers and content providers to optimize. Boing Boing's use of eleven different trackers - while a little on the high side - are no different from a developer's use of Pinch Media. Without them, Boing Boing would make a lot less money and have a lot less resources devoted to spreading hypocritical, misleading FUD.
Oh, and for the commenter that suggested a lawsuit could produce detailed information on a user's movements - you can't subpoena what we don't store, so the best you're going to get is nearest city. Try the carriers, they're much more likely to share.
Co-Founder, Pinch Media
I can understand Yardley's frustration as he goes around the web defending his company. That can't make for a fun Tuesday morning. I'm glad he's willing to engage the issue head-on.
But there's one difference between web-based tracking and the sort of analytics that Pinch Media gathers on the iPhone: it's pretty simple to figure out what stats tracking occurs between a web site and a browser on a computer, as Yardley shows; it's much more difficult to discern—or even be aware of—tracking that occurs in a closed system like the iPhone. And it's not FUD to point it out so users can make their own decision.