Mobile Marketers Agree on Initial Privacy Guide

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Mobile marketers finally have privacy guidelines for location-based advertising that they can agree on -- sort of.

After a year of squabbling among wireless carriers, advertisers and other related firms, the Mobile Marketing Association, New York, recently released its recommendations on privacy and location-based advertising.

But the association is carefully calling the guide a "point of view statement" that the industry can change and form into a final guideline likely to be released this summer.

One of the association's challenges was getting its wireless carrier members, which include AT&T Wireless and Sprint PCS, to agree on opt-in/opt-out policies.

"Confirmed opt in is a very hot issue in Internet, direct mail and telemarketing," said Barry Peters, chairman of the association's privacy initiative. "How do you confirm if someone is opt in?"

Some carriers' contracts state that customers are automatically opted in to certain marketing information. But in most other carrier contracts, customers are instructed to go through a series of steps, such as calling an 800 number or visiting a Web site, to opt in for marketing information.

In the end, association members -- which include Ogilvy Interactive, and SkyGo -- agreed to this generic policy: subscribers should be able to opt out of location-based marketing at any time, even if they have already agreed to receive marketing campaigns.

The point of view statement also said that companies must make full disclosure if they are going to use location information for marketing purposes.

After a consumer has opted in for location-based information, members should use various methods to verify the user's permission and identity, such as requiring them to confirm they want the information by entering a password on a Web site.

However, to reassure the public on the opt-out issue, the association wants to establish a program similar to the Direct Marketing Association's telemarketing do-not-call service for consumers.

"We would like to consolidate it into one central repository, similar to what the DMA has done," Peters said.

The recommendation also said that firms that want to share subscriber information with third parties should do so only with the subscriber's consent.

In addition, carriers and marketers should not merge personally identifiable information (such as mailing address and e-mail address) with mobile subscribers' location information without consent from subscribers.

Though location-based advertising is not much of an issue with consumers now -- and it is all pull versus push advertising -- the Mobile Marketing Association wants to be ahead of the curve.

"I would say consumers at this point are not freaked out; it's not on their radar screens yet," Peters said. "What we're trying to do is formulate recommendations prior to it coming on their radar screens."

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