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DAA extends data collection self-regulatory program to mobile apps

The Digital Advertising Alliance is hoping to take its success with a self-regulatory program for the Web and translate it for mobile applications to ensure greater transparency and consumer control in how sensitive data is collected.

While the mobile app space is growing quickly, currently there is not a lot of consistency in how users? sensitive data is collected. The lack of transparency and user control has the potential to damage the industry if consumers and or regulators lose confidence in how consumer data is being protected.

?This is the first self-regulatory program that deals with transparency and control inside the mobile app environment,? said Lou Mastria, managing director of the DAA, Washington.

?Our existing programs already encompass the mobile Web,? he said. ?This is to go after an area we had not gone after before, mobile apps, precise location and personal directory data, which we have seen in the news that consumers are concerned about.

?One of the things that we want to make sure that consumers feel as they interact with their mobile devices more on an on-going basis is that advertisers are being responsible and to demonstrate that responsibility to consumers when this kind of data is being collected.?

Giving users choice
The DAA is the group behind the AdChoices icon, which is viewed one trillion times a month to let users know how information about their activity is being gathered.

The group is a consortium of the largest media and marketing associations in the United States, including the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the Direct Marketing Association and the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

The new mobile program, which has been in development for two years, encompasses the entire app ecosystem, including brands, advertising technology companies and agencies.

Under the program, precise location data must be tied to consumer consent, with users being given an opportunity to affirmatively agree to have the data collected.

The DAA also anticipates that the AdChoices icon, which is widely used on the Web, will be adopted by apps to inform users when data is being collected.

Additionally, the DAA expects a mobile app option enabling users to click on one button and opt-out of data collection from participating marketers, similar to what is currently offered on the Web.

The right balance
The organization?s goal is to balance the need for transparency and control with the need for marketers to serve ads.

?At the end of the day, it is a benefit to advertisers and consumers alike, because advertisers get to put the right message in front of the right audience at the right time,? Mr. Mastria said. ?And consumers, they get to know that the data being collected under the auspices of this program is being collected responsibly, transparently and that they have control over it.

?That creates that kind of win-win that is hard to do but is important to do, especially in a fast-growing medium like this,? he said.

The guidelines are being rolled out now, and the DAA will spend the next six to 12 months educating the industry about them.

At the end of the education period, the DAA will start enforcing the program. This will include the Better Business Bureau and the DMA taking in-bound complaints as well as active monitoring.

When non-compliance is found, the companies will be contacted and given a chance to explain what happened and to comply.

If a company does not come into compliance, the DAA has the ability to refer it to federal authorities, something it has not had to do yet for its Web-based program.

Building confidence
The mobile program does not just apply to DAA participants but to any entity collecting precise location and personal directory data in mobile apps.

The expectation is that the program will help instill confidence in mobile app users that their data is being handled responsible.

If the program is successful, then regulators may decide that the mobile industry is capable of effective self-regulation and not feel the need to intervene with their own regulations.

The NAI has also introduced guidelines covering mobile app data collection that apply to its members and that are meant to complement the DAA program.

?Bringing this kind of credibility and demonstration of responsibility to the mobile environment, we believe, is critical to make sure that as the mobile environment evolves, that advertisers are going to be held in high esteem by consumers who see the icon,? Mr. Mastria said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York