Mobile ad network Millennial Media will begin allowing iPhone, iPad and Android users to opt out of behavioral targeting via a new TRUSTe tool, the privacy compay said on Wednesday.
TRUSTe's tool, unveiled in April, places a new identifier on users' devices. That code, which TRUSTe calls a Trusted Preference Identifier, allows people to opt out of receiving targeted ads. But ironically, it also can be used to track people and send them ads based on their mobile activity.
TRUSTe developed the combination tracking-and-privacy tool shortly after Apple said it was going to limit developers' ability to access the unique device identifiers for ad targeting. At the time, mobile ad networks weren't sure how they would send behaviorally targeted ads to iPhone and iPad users.
Apple subsequently rolled out a replacement, called Identifier for Advertisers. That feature allows networks to send behaviorally targeted ads to iPhone and iPad users, but also enables users to limit tracking by outside companies.
Chris Babel, CEO of TRUSTe, says its tool will enable iPhone, iPad and Android users to opt out of targeting on a company-by-company basis. (The TRUSTe tool shouldn't have any effect if iPhone and iPad users opt out of all mobile behavioral targeting via Apple's own mechanism.)
Not everyone is enthusiastic about TRUSTe's plan. Jim Brock, CEO of PrivacyChoice, tweeted on Thursday that device fingerprinting for privacy purposes was "questionable."
But Babel says that TRUSTe's identifier will ensure that users' choices are respected. He adds that consumers who install the identifier can later effectively delete the data associated with their devices by "renewing" or "revoking" it.
Consumers who "renew" the identifier will receive a new one that maintains their opt-out preferences, but isn't tied to their old identifier. People who "revoke" the identifier will simply receive a new one that doesn't include information about their preferences -- which occurs when consumers delete all desktop cookies, including opt-out cookies.
Millennial intends to start using the tool next year, according to Babel.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated with a correction noting that TRUSTe does not use device fingerprinting technology to recognize users who opt out of online behavioral targeting.