GroupM develops mobile privacy guidelines

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Media agency GroupM has issued privacy guidelines for mobile marketing vendors aimed at preventing the need for government regulation, the firm said June 22. WPP Group-owned Group M developed the guidelines with its mobile marketing agency Joule.

“We are having these conversations [about online privacy regulations with government regulators], but we also don't want to wait until we are being told what needs to be done,” said Michael Collins, CEO of Joule. “We'd rather take the responsible step, and we feel that we have been taking the responsible steps, to get this addressed properly.”

Among the four actions that GroupM recommends is that vendors provide an opt-out mechanism and collaborate with industry organizations to develop a universal opt-out for mobile devices. Such a mechanism would work across mobile apps, browsers and ad networks.

However, the biggest impediment to developing such a mobile opt-out platform is “the tactical issue” of creating one not hindered by a mobile device's small screen size, said Collins.

GroupM also suggests that vendors and publishers display privacy policies and outline what information is being collected and whether that data will be shared with third parties.

“In the online world, we're talking mainly about cookies,” said Collins. “[In mobile] there are Unique User Identification codes, mobile phone numbers, all of which consumers don't have the ability to turn off or delete like they do with a cookie. That sets up a whole set of privacy concerns that need to be taken into account.”

Last week, two mobile privacy bills were introduced in Congress that would prevent companies from collecting a device's location information without a consumer's consent. US Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) unveiled an online privacy bill last month that called for the creation of a universal Do Not Track mechanism that would apply online and to mobile devices.

Collins said that the “easiest” recommendations to implement are that mobile publishers and app developers mask a device's Unique User Identification code (UUID) from third parties, such as mobile ad networks, and not pass consumers' personally identifiable information (PII) to third parties. He said these measures would prevent outside companies from linking a UUID with PII.

GroupM and Joule began developing the guidelines in March, then distributed them to a mix of 10 online portals, ad networks and “some of the mobile rich-media players” in mid-May, said Collins.

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