Mobile Trust: Build It, and They Will Come

Mobile’s potential beckons like a field of dreams but whether it becomes a reality depends on the ability to build consumer trust for your platform or business.

Mobile usage is surging. Gartner Group forecasts mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common web access device worldwide within the next 12 months and has identified mobile as a top trend for 2013.

A recent 2012 survey by Price Grabber showed 16 percent of U.S. consumers using mobile devices throughout the holiday season to view coupons; make purchases; and quickly and easily compare online prices with in-store deals. These numbers will only increase, with next year’s corresponding figures certain to dwarf the current. And this trend isn’t just in the U.S. An even larger 40 percent of UK consumers are using mobile devices to check prices or product details across the pond.

Yet despite the ever-willingness of consumers to track down the best deals and leverage newfound freedoms delivered by a ubiquitous mobile platform, consumers aren’t always so keen on having others track them. Consumer concerns range from identity theft, fraud, as well as excessive spam. A 2012 Harris Interactive survey revealed that eighty five percent of consumers say they won’t download an app they don’t trust, and fifty percent will opt out of online behavioral advertising (OBA) to manage their privacy and prevent tracking.

However, the industry is making progress in education efforts regarding targeted advertising. For example, the Digital Advertising Association (DAA) has achieved significant success for desktop-based behavioral advertising through its Self-Regulatory Principles for Online Behavioral Advertising. As of November 2012, it recorded 12.7 million unique visits to its www.YourAdChoices.com education site in less than a year’s time.

Now it’s mobile’s turn. By following the same model, the industry hopes to put a mobile solution in place. However, businesses can’t stand still and must address mobile privacy concerns now with policies that support clear notice and choice.

By being proactive and delivering targeted advertising in a privacy safe manner, businesses can differentiate themselves and take advantage of the opportunities in this high growth trajectory market today.

If they don’t, they risk damaging both brand integrity and consumer confidence. To educate consumers and alleviate fears, the mobile advertising ecosystem must move to: 

  • Ensure mobile privacy policies are in place today
  • Deliver clear and meaningful notice and choice
  • Monitor emerging regulatory requirements
  • Engage in best privacy practices in advance

Privacy Policies Must Be Mobile
All players within the mobile advertising community must ensure that they have privacy policies in place today. Privacy policies immediately convey that a business respects its customers and their personal information. By taking the appropriate steps to protect customers’ data, businesses also reflect their own brand integrity.

Further, these policies need to be easily accessible from any mobile device, with seamless interoperability across all mobile devices and operating systems. Policies also must be clearly visible to consumers through instant one-click access – critical on the mobile platform – so that they can quickly drill down to get the privacy data they want and then easily return to interactions on the main site or application.

Be Transparent Through Clear and Meaningful Disclosure
TRUSTe's research has repeatedly shown that a consistent approach to privacy – that informs consumers about their choices and explains them in a transparent manner – is the most successful across all online markets. Consumers need to understand how their data is being used and be given the choice to participate or not.

When given clear notice and choice, consumer confidence increases and consumers become more open to innovative technologies such as targeted advertising or geo-location tracking. Educating consumers about how interest-based advertising works in a transparent manner is key to fostering consumer trust. Businesses have an obligation to safe guard customers’ personal information and make their mobile privacy practices clear and easy to understand.

Monitor Mobile Regulatory Requirements
By having mobile policies in place and being transparent about usage of data, businesses already have an advantage in meeting emerging regulatory requirements through best practices, such as notification and opt-out choices. For example, in early December, a Senate committee advanced a bill (sponsored by Senator Al Franken, D-Minn) requiring companies to notify consumers and obtain consent when collecting location data. This is on top of a number of federal bills focusing on mobile privacy. Meanwhile, the W3C anticipates publishing a ‘stable’ DNT standard in 2013.

Act Now to Address Consumer Concerns
But, the mobile advertising ecosystem should not wait until all the pieces of the puzzle are in place before addressing consumer privacy concerns. Privacy is the most critical issue in mobile. Consumers want to know what personal information is collected and how that information is shared.  And they want a voice in the process. Businesses need to reassure customers that their data is safe and take the first step to benefit from the amazing business potential of the mobile ecosystem. By having clear, easy-to-understand policies for mobile with choices, businesses show that they value customer privacy and give their business more credibility – and ensure an evergreen field of dreams.

Related Event: 
Publisher Forum XXIX


Richard Qiu is VP of Business Development at TRUSTe, the leading global privacy management solutions provider and recognized pioneer in online privacy. An expert in mobile digital media and advertising, Richard has held executive positions with emerging media and mobile companies that include EVP of Business Development at 4INFO, a company he helped grow into the mobile industry’s third largest mobile display network; and VP of Worldwide Business Development at Fanbox, a mobile data and billing company that pioneered mobile social community. He holds a MBA from the University of Chicago Booth Graduate School of Business, and a PhD from the Vanderbilt University School of Engineering.

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Businesses have an obligation to safe guard customers’ personal information and make their mobile privacy practices clear and easy to understand.

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