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A small change in Facebook’s ad policies is causing problems for Seattle mobile marketing startup Tune.

The change involves a key method of measuring app visits and installs, called deep links. Tune relied on deep links to provide data to its customers following a 2014 dustup with Facebook that somewhat limited what it could tell customers about their ads on the social media site.

Tune CEO Peter Hamilton. (Tune Photo)

Deep links go directly to a page within an app, instead of just the homepage, and can be used as a measurement mechanism. For example, a deep-linked Facebook ad for a specific vacation package from a travel app takes customers directly to that package once they’ve downloaded the app. Tune could then show customers how many users opened or installed their app through that ad campaign.

But Facebook’s policy change takes that tool out of Tune’s toolbox. This week, Facebook said in an alert that “you cannot use deep links for measurement or tracking purposes,” according to a blog post from Tune CEO Peter Hamilton. In order to comply with Facebook’s new rule, Tune on Thursday stopped using deep links for measurement.

“This is a tough situation,” Hamilton wrote in the blog post. “There is no question that this Facebook policy change will complicate things for our customers, and I want you to know that we are here to help in any way possible. That said, it is very important for us to make sure we approach policies and terms with extreme compliance in these situations, both to the spirit and the letter of those terms.”

We reached out to Tune and Hamilton about the change, and he told us that the company is shutting off deep links to comply with Facebook’s policy change on its end and make sure that Tune’s customers don’t violate the rules.

“Tune is committed to helping marketers in every possible way, and that means on specific scenarios and work flows and reporting and performance,” Hamilton said. “We are always open to conversations with them as well as Facebook, and we are going to continue to stay focused on building the best technology suite that we can, while keeping in mind the best way to help them succeed as marketers.”

He went on to say that “we are here working through all of this with (our customers) every step and are happy to give our best in any situation.”

In the blog post, Hamilton wrote that Tune believed deep linking measurement would be protected for years to come because it is built in to the mobile operating systems themselves, Android and iOS.

The long-term impact on Tune’s business isn’t clear. Any limitation on marketing insights from Facebook makes it tough on companies like Tune and their customers. Facebook in recent years has become part of a two-headed monster, along with Google, controlling much of the digital ad market. Between them, Facebook and Google are capturing 85 percent of share of online advertising growth and rising.

Tune still has methods to track aggregate data from Facebook ads, like the number of customers that come to an app or a site through a Facebook ad. But the company can’t glean much else about specific customers. For customers who want deeper insights, Tune pledged in the blog post to help connect them with a member of the Facebook Mobile Measurement Partner program, which providers deeper measurement information.

This is not the first time the Tune team has run up against problems with Facebook. In 2014, the company, then known as HasOffers, was kicked out of Facebook’s mobile measurement program after it ran afoul of the social networking giant’s privacy policies related to data collection. Facebook said HasOffers was holding on to data for too long and failing to notify users about its data collection policies.

This meant Tune would not be allowed to provide Facebook measurements or add new advertisers going forward. But the deep links provided something of a work-around for Tune and other companies not in the mobile measurement program, where they could still get device-level insights on Facebook ads.

Tune wants to repair its relationship with Facebook, and within the blog post, Hamilton specifically discouraged customers from asking the social media giant to change its new policy on deep links. Instead, he wrote that customers who want to get involved should contact Facebook and let the social media site know why Tune makes sense as a partner.

“We do not recommend attempting to advocate that Facebook reverse or change their policy on deep link measurement,” Hamilton wrote. “We believe it is important to respect their terms. However, if you would like to advocate for a path toward Tune as a future Facebook partner, please reach out to your most appropriate Facebook contacts. Don’t forget to include why you trust Tune with your business and why this would be important to you as a marketer or partner.”

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