OPA Intelligence Reports

Posted in News on 02/11/2013 By Mark Glaser & Courtney Lowery Cowgill

FTC acts on mobile privacy

The FTC has been studying privacy issues around mobile and is finally releasing guidelines. The basic message in the FTC’s recommendations, released Feb. 1, is this: The industry has to get more stringent about privacy controls and consumers should be able to opt out of tracking. Departing FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz told reporters, “Mobile technology provides unique privacy challenges. Some would say it’s a sort of Wild West.” Among the recommendations, which are non-binding, is for apps, ads and mobile operating systems to ask for privacy permissions or give disclosures as to what information is being used outside the device. Also, the FTC is suggesting that both ads and browsers offer a “Do Not Track” option. The recommendations could have big implications for companies such as Google and Facebook, the latter of which has long history of privacy issues – issues that are only bound to get thornier as the company gets even more mobile.

Facebook just released its fourth quarter earnings and its ad business grew 41 percent over the same quarter the year before, mostly thanks to mobile ads. Of the total $1.3 billion in ad revenue, 23 percent was mobile ads—up from 14 percent in Q3. Along with its mobile success comes privacy issues, naturally. Facebook is reportedly developing a mobile app that will track users’ locations—in the name of helping you find friends and services, of course. Under pressure from users, advertisers and privacy groups, Facebook finally agreed to mark ads to point out how they’ve been targeted based on your usage. The social giant will use the little blue “AdChoices” icon that other targeted ads sport. As Kate Kaye and Cotton Delo write for Ad Age, “On the face of it, the move is progress for the industry’s most pervasive self-regulatory ad privacy program.” But there’s also something else there. Kaye and Delo write, “Implementing the icon, which brands and agencies use for big online display campaigns, could be seen as another step toward Facebook’s third-party ad network. Some advertisers won’t buy behavioral campaigns across the web without it.”