Mobile Marketers, TRUSTe Team Up

In a move aimed at ensuring mobile marketers have their say in the discussion about wireless privacy best practices, the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) has joined non-profit seal organization TRUSTe in its efforts to establish guidelines for the new medium.

The privacy organization, which gives its “seal of approval” to companies that abide by its guidelines, has been working on developing standards for the wireless world since February, when it signed on AT&T Wireless as its initial partner in the effort.

The agreement with the MMA calls for the industry organization to get a seat on the TRUSTe Wireless Privacy Committee, and for TRUSTe to work with MMA member companies and include them in privacy initiatives.

“…the Mobile Marketing Association…will provide valuable perspective and insight as TRUSTe seeks to extend its privacy safety net to wireless consumers,” said Fran Maier, executive director of TRUSTe.

It’s unclear exactly how TRUSTe intends to expand its “seal” program to wireless, in that the technology is very limiting. An SMS message, for example, consists of only 160 characters, meaning there is scant room for a certificate noting its being sent by a TRUSTe member.

Enforcement is also a key issue. On the Internet, TRUSTe’s original domain, it has often been criticized for lacking the manpower or the enforcement power to make its guidelines stick.

As for the MMA, its hope is that resolving some of the privacy issues will allow for the more rapid development of wireless as a marketing medium. While a number of campaigns have been successfully deployed in Europe and Asia, the practice hasn’t yet conquered American shores.

“The MMA brings to the table its membership of influential companies in the wireless arena who are deploying innovative and technologically advanced applications to make wireless a commonly used and viable marketing vehicle,” said Barry Peters, MMA Privacy Committee chairman. “This, along with the world-renowned privacy initiatives of TRUSTe, will create a partnership that will move the development of the mobile marketing industry and its self-regulation forward at an accelerated speed.”

The Mobile Marketing Association has itself already issued guidelines on privacy and spam, back in November of 2000, and in March of this year, it expanded them to touch upon location-based issues. The organization’s position is quite conservative, perhaps reflecting the view that privacy must be handled extremely delicately when mobile devices are concerned — both because of cost issues and because of the perception of the phone as a very personal device.

Similarly to TRUSTe’s Web policy, the MMA advocates that its members should adopt an easily accessible privacy policy that informs consumers how their personally identifiable information (PII) is being used. Member companies are to obtain people’s consent to use their information via confirmed opt-in. The organization also said that it opposed wireless spam, and said that member companies should make every effort to secure users’ PII, and allow individuals access to correct or delete information being stored about them.

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