Privacy advocates and regulators have challenged the ad industry to provide meaningful choice when it comes to the collection and use of behavioral data. In response, industry leaders have come together in support of the enhanced ad notice icon, which leads the user to industry wide disclosure and choice options. Although some still question this approach, it is well positioned to have significant industry adoption as a framework for consumer choice on traditional websites.
The industry is at an earlier stage when it comes to providing notice and choice on mobile devices. The infrastructure delivering mobile ads isn’t as well developed, and the ecosystem is more complex with carriers, devices and operating systems each playing a role. Nevertheless, given the rapid growth expected for mobile advertising, and the heightened privacy concerns associated with location-aware mobile devices, it is imperative that we also focus on how to deliver meaningful choice in this new environment.
The in-ad use of the enhanced ad notice icon faces some obstacles when applied to ads that appear within mobile apps, a growing segment of online ads. Not only does there tend to be less visible real estate in mobile ads, there’s no easy way (like cookies) to store the preference so that it is accessible across or between different apps and the mobile browser. Companies are working on ways to store tracking preferences at the device-level, but to work this will take a new level of cooperation between advertisers, operating system providers, and app makers—each with their own privacy agenda.
Despite these challenges, meaningful choice may actually become easier for ads in mobile apps because they can provide a different choice framework. Unlike typical websites, every app already has a moment of choice before any data collection begins: the moment of installation. Users typically install new apps through a marketplace (like Apple’s App Store) where they search, browse, and select new apps. Each app has a reference page, which can include links to terms of service and privacy information. Notice-and-choice for tracking, possibly even the icon itself, can be provided at this stage in the process of installing an application.
About the Author
Jim Brock is Founder and CEO of PrivacyChoice. You can follow him on Twitter @privacychoice.
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