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Mobile industry group wants new privacy rules

The Mobile Marketing Association is working on new privacy guidelines among its members to better define what information is collected from consumers and how it's used.

A trade group for the mobile-phone industry is calling for new privacy guidelines to help address consumer complaints over how and what information is gathered through mobile apps.

Made up of mobile advertisers, publishers, and media companies, the Mobile Marketing Association said yesterday that it's working on a new set of privacy guidelines to supplement its current Global Code of Conduct. Created in 2008, the Code of Conduct established that mobile marketers must ensure that consumers can opt in and out of ads and that information gathered through ads be used responsibly.

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.

"The launch of this initiative shows the MMA's and Mobile Industry's ongoing commitment to the importance of consumer transparency with regards to privacy issues and data collection," Greg Stuart, Global CEO of the MMA, said in a statement. "The industry recognizes that in order for marketers and publishers to responsibly and sustainably engage consumers through and with the mobile channel, we need to continuously update how we address the collection, management, and use of personal data or related consumer information."

Always an ongoing issue, online privacy once again found itself in the news recently. The Wall Street Journal on Saturday ran a story in which it discovered that some mobile apps send certain information, such as the phone's location, to third-party companies without the user's consent or knowledge. Responding to the Journal's findings, Stuart told the paper that the report "shone a light on issues the [MMA's] committee will need to address."

The government is also getting involved in the issue, another factor that's likely spurring the MMA to act. Earlier this month, the Federal Trade Commission released a report on online privacy in which it discussed the idea of a "do not track" for the Web policy, similar to the current "do not call" list that bans telemarketers from calling people.

The creation and maintenance of such a list for the Web would be difficult to implement, though, one reason why some in Washington want to see the industry do a better job of self-regulation. Stopping short of calling for new regulations on mobile advertisers, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said during the launch of the report that "we're going to give these companies a little time, but we'd like to see them work a lot faster."