Industry Group Wants Better Smartphone Privacy Policy

Sue Marquette Poremba

When I was growing up, almost everyone I knew had telephones on a party line. Phone privacy didn't exist. You never knew who was listening to your calls or what information these listeners knew (or in the case of many teenage girls, how they'd use that information).


The old party lines finally disappeared in my hometown sometime in the mid-1980s, but I'm often reminded of those days with today's smartphones. If you use apps, chances are that somebody is keeping track of what you're doing. An article in the Wall Street Journal found:

An examination of 101 popular smartphone "apps"- games and other software applications for iPhone and Android phones - showed that 56 transmitted the phone's unique device ID to other companies without users' awareness or consent. Forty-seven apps transmitted the phone's location in some way. Five sent age, gender and other personal details to outsiders.

The FTC proposed a Do Not Track list for computer users. Would that be a good idea for smartphones, too? According to a CNET report, a mobile-phone industry group would like to see privacy guidelines for smartphones and for how third parties gather information. The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), writes Lance Whitney, is working on new privacy guidelines to go along with its Global Code of Conduct:

But with ongoing concerns about online privacy, the MMA said it wants consumers to have a more transparent view of the process of information gathering and a better understanding of how that information is being used. Toward that end, the MMA is calling on more companies to join its privacy committee, which sets up certain guidelines for online data collection. The group also intends to discuss the issue of online privacy at its upcoming Consumer Best Practices meeting on January 25 and 26.

What does this mean for businesses that use tracking methods for advertising and other reasons? It's hard to tell right now. Greg Stuart, global CEO of MMA, says his group understands the need for advertisers and publishers and others to find a way to engage consumers, but where is the line between respecting privacy and building a business platform?

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