MMA Issues Mobile Privacy Guidelines

Continuing its push for worldwide standards, the Mobile Marketing Association Tuesday released a set of global privacy guidelines for mobile marketers.

The new Global Code of Conduct broadens the scope of privacy rules the MMA issued last year for the U.S., with input from its Latin America, Asia-Pacific and Europe, Middle East and Africa chapters.

"It is only through industry support of strong privacy guidelines that the power of mobile marketing can reach its full potential," said Russell Buckley, MMA Global Board Chairman and Managing Director, Europe for AdMob.

The code encompasses voluntary guidelines in five categories:

• Notice -- Informing users of the marketers' identity or products and services offered and the key terms and conditions that govern an interaction between the marketer and the user's mobile device.

• Choice and Consent -- Respecting the right of the user to control which mobile messages they receive by obtaining opt-in consent and implementing a simple termination, or opt-out, process.

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• Customization and Constraint -- Ensuring that collected user information is used to tailor communication to the interests of the recipient and is handled responsibly, sensitively and in compliance with applicable law. Mobile messages should be limited to those requested by the user and provide value such as product and service enhancements, contests, requested information, entertainment or discounts.

• Security -- The implementation of reasonable technical, administrative and physical procedures to protect user information from unauthorized use, alteration, disclosure, distribution, or access.

• Enforcement and Accountability -- The MMA expects its members to comply with the MMA Privacy Code of Conduct and has incorporated the code into relevant MMA guidelines, including the U.S. Consumer Best Practice guidelines.

Until the code can be enforced effectively by a third party enforcement organization, mobile marketers are expected to use evaluations of their practices to certify compliance with the code.

The privacy guidelines come a week after the MMA updated its consumer best practices rules and almost two months after it issued new technical guidelines on mobile banner and text ads.

"Standardization of ad sizes, ad serving, spam control, data collection, and privacy are absolutely essential to the growth of the mobile marketing business," said Eric Bader, president and co-founder of mobile marketing firm Brand in Hand. "Without these efforts, there's ambiguity and too much latitude for bad practices."

Establishing worldwide mobile standards is especially important in knocking down barriers to mobile advertising among different countries, he added.

But some advocacy groups say the emerging mobile ad business needs more than voluntary standards on privacy. The Center for Digital Democracy and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group plans to file an amended complaint with the Federal Trade Commission by Friday on behavioral targeting generally, but encompassing mobile marketing.

"The FTC has to proactively ensure consumers control their information and that the mobile marketing 'ecosystem' is an opt-in, fully transparent, user-controlled mobile system," said Jeff Chester, founder and executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy.

The agency held a town hall on mobile advertising and consumer protection in May.

The Federal Communications Commission already prohibits marketers from sending text message ads to consumers without their opt-in consent, but some other types of nascent mobile ads--such as WAP (wireless application protocol) banners or search ads--are not similarly restricted.

The Privacy Committee of the MMA North American chapter developed the code of conduct with participation from mobile companies, content providers and advertisers including Ad Infuse, AOL, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, Verizon Wireless, Qualcomm and Yahoo.

The U.S. remains the biggest market for mobile advertising, though it lags both Europe and Asia in cell phone sales and use. EMarketer estimates the total U.S. market for mobile advertising will reach $6.5 billion by 2012, up from nearly $1.7 billion this year.

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