TRUSTe launches mobile ad privacy tool: ad:tech San Francisco

Online security firm TRUSTe launched “TRUSTed Mobile Ads” on April 3, a tool enabling consumers to opt out of mobile ads from participating companies. Company CEO Chris Babel made the announcement in conjunction with ad:tech San Francisco.

Games developer Electronic Arts (EA), HasOffers ad tracking firm and location-based mobile media company JiWire, are among 10 advertisers, publishers, networks and platforms using the tool.

Babel said the new tool also enables app developers to embed a TRUSTe software development kit into mobile apps. It also creates a Trusted Preference Identifier, a number used to identify mobile devices, to allow users to opt out of ads from individual ad networks. That enables consumers to do the equivalent of clearing their cookies on their mobile devices, which was previously only possible to do on desktops.

The tool also enables developers to configure apps to comply with the upcoming EU Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive—also referred to as the Cookie Directive—which requires user consent before websites can use cookies. The directive, which takes affect on May 25, is the opposite of US practices, which assume users are opted in until they opt out.   

Babel explained that the development comes during a crucial time in the mobile world because, much like the desktop world a few years ago, some consumers are not aware they are being targeted and are beginning to worry about their privacy. A 2011 TRUSTe report showed 88% of US consumers indicated they will not do business with a company they feel does not protect their privacy.

“There are government and consumer calls for more transparency and to allow them to opt out [of ad targeting],” Babel said.

Currently, all iPhones can already be identified through an unchangeable and unique serial number called a unique device identifier (UDID), Babel said. Marketers use UDIDs as cookie-identifiers to target ads based on factors such as mobile searches or websites visited to target ads to consumers.

Until last week, iPhone app developers had full access to the UDID through the application programming interface (API). However, Babel said Apple began announcing last year it would begin blocking access to UDIDs with the launch of iOS 5 and began implementing the practice last week. 

“[This change] was leaving the mobile app publisher and network world in turmoil,” Babel said.

The new TRUSTed Mobile Ads is one way consumers can trust companies are protecting their privacy.

Babel said the new technology is available free for first adopters of the program for potentially the next six months or until the end of the year as TRUSTe increases the network community for the tool.

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