Wireless-Ad Group Starts Lobbying Effort

The Wireless Advertising Association is responding to a new wireless-privacy bill and other government initiatives by hiring a Washington lobbyist for the first time.

“Privacy is in the air. It is an issue in the online area with children, with the anti-spam legislation and in the healthcare field,” said John Kamp of Wiley, Rein and Fielding in Washington, who will meet with congressional leaders and testify at government hearings on privacy for the association.

Though the WAA has had voluntary privacy standards since November, the organization is just starting to take its message to government leaders.

“It's up to us to ensure the FCC, FTC and Congress fully understand the real promise of wireless,” Kamp said. “Otherwise, consumers and the wireless industry could be set back by unnecessary privacy regulation.”

WAA members have a stake in several privacy issues, including a bill introduced this week by Sen. John Edwards, D-NC, the Location Privacy Protection Act.

Consumers and legislators have raised concerns about location-based messaging and information.

“We just know we don't want people to follow us around without our permission,” Kamp said. “With a wireless device, [the carriers] not only have personal information about who the user is, they know where they are when they are making a call.”

Edwards' bill would require location-based services to provide clear and conspicuous privacy policies and obtain consumers' express authorization before collecting, using or disclosing location-based information. The services also should provide customers “reasonable access” to their personal data so they can delete it, if they choose.

Though the WAA supports the bill in principle, it may be too soon to enact a privacy law, Kamp said.

“Although Europe and the Pacific Rim have a lot of regulations [on privacy],” he said, “in America, cell phones are essentially used for phone conversations. This would apply to a service that's still in its infancy.”

Kamp does not think the bill will pass this year, before Congress recesses in August, but it acts as a catalyst for discussion of the issue.

In Washington, the WAA also will continue to get the message across that its members do not support push advertising.

“Wireless devices are not the place to do push advertising,” Kamp said, “and Congress now understands that.”

WAA's voluntary standards also say that its members should notify subscribers of how their names, addresses, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses are being used. “They should not use PII [personally identifiable information] for purposes other than those for which it was collected, without explicit consent,” the standards state.

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