Though there is some speculation as to how long it will remain available on Apple’s app store, you can currently download and install a new adblocker app for your iPhone which even blocks Apple’s own ‘Apple News’ service. The Been Choice app takes advantage of iOS 9’s controversial content-blocking capabilities to provide the end user with block capabilities for both mobile apps and for the Safari browser (or any similar Webkit-based shells which provide their own browser implementation on top of the native shell).
On top of this the app provides its own monetising model which lets users fill out surveys and volunteer their own data to participate in a cash rewards scheme. According to founders Dave Yoon and Sang Shin, this model, though commercial, offers more transparency to the user, who is widely now perceived to be tired of being ‘the product’. “Today, [user consent is] muddled and compromised,” said Yoon. “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.”
Been Choice is not exactly a ‘local’ solution – it diverts all traffic through a VPN that then channels it through the company’s own servers, where it’s ‘cleaned’ of known commercial content before being passed to the user. One might reasonably wonder if a startups’s infrastructure is quite ready to handle the kind of traffic consequent to the huge popularisation of an app, if that should occur. In any case there has been some criticism of latency issues with Been Choice because of the VPN/cleaning lag; one comment at the app’s iTunes page says: ‘because it moves all traffic through a VPN to stop advertisements, it slows down your internet connection…Since all internet traffic is moved through the VPN, this application may not be right for people worried about security.’
Personally I doubt that Apple’s iTunes approval process, which I know from experience to be slow and rigorous, actually let the Apple-blocking feature ‘slip past it’. The degree of ire from ad-dependent publishing companies about iOS 9’s blocking features has centred on the fact that Apple itself is funded by its own absurdly successful hardware sales, and need have no consideration for other models when catering for a post-Snowden generation of consumers who are increasingly looking for a little more respect.