Even Opt-In is Not Safe

mocoNews continues the coverage of the FTC complaint by consumer privacy groups against the mobile industry.

But where consumer groups see a threat to privacy, companies see a user experience they claim can be managed by giving the consumer the ability to opt in or opt out. Google’s product manager for mobile services in North America told Forbes that mobile ads would have to add value, offer proper education and awareness for users and give them full control. The big question is will consumers and companies ever agree on what opt-in really means on mobile? If you read the full complaint, you’ll find that the vast majority of practices or services that companies think are adding value and are opt-in are things that USPIRG and CDD find objectionable. The groups found, for example, mobile marketer Velti’s opt-in loyalty campaigns of sweepstakes, fr*ee games, and alerts, that allowed advertisers to build up a detailed profile of their customer base from the signups as manipulative,’ noting that it was unlikely that consumers would fully understand the privacy implications of every discount coupon, fr*ee download, or ringtone offer that comes their way. Velti, I’m sure, believes they are adding value to the consumer experience by giving users fr*ee content. This really is an opening shot of what has been an issue that the mobile ad sector already knows they need to tread carefully around, and it’s not going away any time soon.

I hadn’t noticed that opt-in programs were considered highly objectionable. I do buy the argument that consumers don’t deeply understand what they are opting into much of the time. Case in point are sub-prime mortgages and nasty credit card offers. However, we are on a slippery slope when explicit consumer consent is not considered enough. The best solution IMO is to have clear and consistent disclosure guidelines. For a good read on this topic, I highly recommend Full Disclosure: The Perils and Promise of Transparency.Also,the BBC did a piece on behavioral targeting about the time Phorm was about to launch. Note the discussion of opt-in vs. opt-out.

About Simeon Simeonov

Entrepreneur. Investor. Trusted advisor.
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