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It's Time for the Mobile-Ad Industry to Start Taking Privacy Seriously

Apple's Universal Identifier is an Important Step

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In the months since the July 13 New York Times Sunday feature, "That's Not My Phone. That's My Tracker," we've received many queries concerning when our industry's Self-Regulatory Program would include some version of the icon for mobile users.

Without question, the mobile web and mobile apps present a wildly complex set of challenges for the Digital Advertising Alliance program -- vastly more fragmented than the web alone. That said there are a few key players making notable advances, convincing me that a solution is probably attainable within the future. And last week, that future got a whole lot brighter -- and closer -- with Apple's unveiling of its new standard ID, the Advertising Identifier (AI).

So, yes -- despite the challenges -- the mobile industry can universally employ privacy protocols. In fact, not only can we, I believe we must. Here are my thoughts on the challenges we face, why it's a must, and what I see for the future.

In May 2011, we forged a relationship with mobile-ad company Tapad, a startup that was built with groundbreaking, non-UDID-dependent privacy protocols incorporated into their technologies. For the first time in mobile advertising, Tapad was able to deliver the DAA's Advertising Choices icon on every mobile impression delivered through their platform. Crucially, they were also able to provide a persistent, mobile web opt-out for consumers.

I use Tapad as an example not only because they were first-to-market, but also because they were then able to secure some of the largest advertisers in the U.S. because they placed privacy at the forefront of their technology. You see, top brands take privacy very, very seriously. And that is the lesson to be learned here: anyone who is doing anything behavioral in mobile can and should use the Advertising Choices icon. Two reasons: because it's the right thing to do; and, it will help drive business. If you want to earn the trust and business of brands, you have to be able to preserve the trust they've earned with their consumers.

For the past several months, Apple made this pretty tough to do. If you are close to the space, you are probably aware that earlier this year, they changed their policies and deprecated the use of UDID on their devices, effectively scattering identifiers in the wind. Consequently, each mobile company went its own way, employing various identifiers, and the ability to link them together for consistent opt-out became much more challenging. I assure you, hundreds of companies in the mobile space were eagerly awaiting news of their new standard. And now that it's here, we need everyone to get onboard and employ the new ID system as swiftly as possible.

The speed with which the DAA, its member associations, and partnering technology providers launched the self-regulatory program and the Advertising Choices Icon is , especially in retrospect, pretty impressive. These days, more than 1 trillion icon impressions are served each month, an inconceivable figure that provides illustrative proof that the alliance of companies all heading in the same direction remains extremely strong and effective.

It will require a concerted effort among every player in the mobile space to move with haste to adopt AI, beyond that , to drive widespread privacy protocol compliance. The payoff? No less than the trust of consumer, and with it, a leap forward in business that is on par with the astounding leaps we're making in the rest of our mobile technology.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Scott Meyer is CEO of Evidon, a startup he founded as entrepreneur in residence at Warburg Pincus LLC, the global private equity firm that is supporting the company. From 2005-2008, he was president and CEO of About.com, a part of The New York Times Company
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