Privacy Groups Protest Mobile Advertising Practices

    January 13, 2009

A lot of things have prevented mobile advertising from becoming widespread; think phone tech, consumers’ reactions, and advertisers’ reluctance, to name a few.  Now, it looks like the list has grown longer, as the Center for Digital Democracy and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group have sent the FTC a formal complaint.

The document‘s full title is "Complaint and Request for Inquiry and Injunctive Relief Concerning Unfair and Deceptive Mobile Marketing Practices."  It’s 52 pages long, and seeks to keep the allegedly underhanded practices from becoming industry standards.

So what do the Center for Digital Democracy and the U.S. PIRG find so worrisome?  Well, the complaint names just about everything that interests companies like Google; behavioral targeting, location-based targeting, user tracking/mobile analytics, audience segmentation, and data mining all make the list.  And yes, in case you were wondering, Google features prominently in the document, too, getting mentioned 14 times.

An introductory paragraph explains, "Many mobile marketers are eager to exploit what they correctly perceive as a unique opportunity to target consumers by taking advantage of our highly personal relationships with these extremely pervasive devices to provoke an immediate consumer response.  The FTC, thus far, has failed to address the unique threats to privacy and consumer welfare . . . reflected in what the industry calls its ‘mobile marketing ecosystem.’"

We’ll see if the FTC changes its tune due to the new complaint, then, and keep an eye out for responses from Google and potential advertisers.