The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), an organization representing over 500 leading companies involved in the sale of interactive advertising, voiced continued support for the extension of the Digital Advertising Alliance’s (DAA) plan for Internet industry self-regulation of privacy standards to the mobile platform. This follows a set of privacy recommendations promulgated by the Mobile Marketing Association. The IAB’s support came as a response Communications Commission’s (FCC) call for comments on how the FCC should address growing concerns about privacy and security on mobile devices, and to what extent the FCC should dictate privacy and data-security practices within the mobile industry.     

The FCC has already recommended industry practices for ensuring mobile privacy, and in California the Attorney General has indicated an intention to require mobile applications to post privacy policies following state guidelines and has entered into agreements with the primary mobile platform providers to require applications in their ecosystems to have appropriate privacy policies. Facebook is the most recent major player to join in that agreement. A recent study shows that since the California AG’s initiative was announced, there has been a dramatic increase in compliance by application publishers.     

The IAB, which participated in the Internet advertising industry’s development of self-regulatory guidelines for Online Behavioral Advertising through the DAA, seeks to put a united voice behind a self-regulatory alternative for the mobile industry, which is increasingly concerned that federal and state regulatory plans would stifle the industry’s growth. In its Comments to the FCC, the IAB stated, “The IAB, in collaboration with the other trade associations and DAA participants, including major U.S. commercial mobile service providers is nearly complete with the extension of these principles to the mobile platform.”     

The self-regulatory principles focus on consumer control. Through the use of a universal Advertising Option Icon on advertisements and applications, which signals to a user that an application or webpage is collecting information for advertising purposes, consumers could access a user-friendly disclosure regarding privacy, data collection, and opt-out mechanisms. The approach draws heavily from prior existing internet-based principles but reorient them to accommodate the unique features of the mobile platform, such as Location-Based Services and IP address limitations. The IAB and other supporters of the DAA’s self-regulatory plan emphasize that this approach offers assurances of privacy while affording the flexibility needed to foster continued growth in an industry that involves diverse stakeholders and participants.     

Although a similar DAA proposal for self-regulation of online advertising has received praise from the FTC and the Obama administration, the FCC may decide nonetheless that federal regulation of mobile privacy is necessary. Companies involved in mobile advertising should familiarize themselves with the DAA’s online advertising self-regulatory program and the efforts to expand this program to the mobile advertising world. Companies should also consider the impact that the growing number of class action lawsuits against mobile companies involving consumer privacy, and the possibility federal prescriptive requirements, might fetter projected mobile ad industry growth.