Meanwhile, Evidon's rival Truste has allowed people to opt-out
of behavioral ad targeting in mobile apps since June 2012. It
recently upgraded its system to work when in-app ads are purchased
through real time bidding, so advertisers bidding on ad placements
know before they make a bid that a user cannot be targeted using
behavioral data. Mobile ad exchange Nexage and Tapad are initial
Today Evidon's app is available in the Apple store and will hit the Play store
for Android phones within a week. Truste's technology does not
require an app download.
In doing so, both companies are jumping ahead of the Digital
Advertising Alliance -- the industry coalition running the
behavioral ad and data collection privacy initiative – which
has been slow to adapt these principles to mobile. The latest
estimated time of arrival for those guidelines: "this spring -- a
few weeks to a couple of months," said Stu Ingis, counsel to the
DAA, noting the group is "still working on the substance."
"That is why we didn't wait, and why we just started to build,"
said Kevin Trilli, VP product at Truste.
The Federal Trade Commission along with states including
California are cracking down on mobile data collection and pushing
for greater mobile consumer privacy controls. It's clear in order
to exhibit its commitment to its privacy efforts, the industry must
move its behavioral data collection privacy program to the phone,
where more and more information is gathered every day.
Edward Kozek, head of engineering and product development at
Evidon, said team and their clients didn't want to wait any longer
to launch its Ad Control app, either. "Our clients, even
non-clients, came to us out of the blue. We had sort of shelved
this project waiting for the [DAA] guidelines," he said. "At least
six clients last fall or winter" requested the icon system for app
ads, he continued. "So, we thought, 'OK, it's game on.'"
Yet, despite the growing importance of mobile privacy, the fact
that the DAA has yet to settle on guidelines has thrown a wrench in
the self-regulatory process. Because there's no official word from
the DAA, participants have no industry-imposed rules on whether
opting-out would simply prevent participating mobile ad networks
from serving behaviorally-targeted ads in apps or go further by
preventing collection of some forms of data.
Also at issue is the fact that most consumers don't make
distinctions between location data and other information collected
via mobile apps, and government regulators and legislators may not
either. So, while device location data can be collected by apps and
used to target ads, there's no DAA guideline determining whether an
advertiser could aim a geo-targeted ad in a mobile app to someone
who's opted out using the Truste or Evidon systems.
The DAA has not endorsed these services yet -- another wrinkle.
"We don't have mobile principles yet so we are not in a position to
endorse; what would we be endorsing against?" said Mike Zaneis, SVP
and general counsel of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, a member
of the DAA coalition.
What's holding up the guidelines? It's not entirely clear but
typically the identifier of choice in the mobile app environment,
where multiple types of device identifiers are employed, opting-out
from mobile ads in apps has a much more permanent effect than on
the desktop. Online, if cookies are cleared, an opt-out cookie gets
trashed, re-enabling tracking and targeting.
The ad industry certainly would prefer that people accept
more-targeted ads which can be priced higher and arguably work
better than less targeted ones. Having a persistent opt-out from
mobile app ads makes it far less likely that a device owner will
rejoin the ranks of targetable consumers anytime soon. It's one
reason Evidon is working on adding an opt-in to its product.