A line must be drawn over privacy before ominous precedents are set

Consumers’ personal data and how it is both treated and secured is one of the defining challenges for marketers, especially as the ‘digital revolution’ enters the ‘post-PC era.’ Marketers must act now or fall foul of its pitfalls.

Ronan Shields

Our surfing habits, our contacts lists and our whereabouts. The fact is, the average smartphone user probably gives away much more personal information than they realise, and probably comfortable with, when accessing their favourite apps.

However, the rapid transition to primary mobile internet access means data protection authorities and industry bodies are having to play catch-up with consumer habits, with many yet to legislate for the area.

Industry sources tell me trade bodies like the IAB are in contact with mobile ad networks like Mojiva and Millennial Media to establish privacy frameworks to govern behavioural targeting on mobiles – current guidelines don’t apply to smartphones and tablets.

So in the interim less responsible parties within the extremely fragmented mobile app development ecosystem are almost free to take liberties with consumers’ sensitive details passed on via their app usage.

I will add this is not the conduct of the vast majority of app developers which are not guilty of the above but as I’ve said before many times in this column, the entire digital marketing industry is just one tabloid headline away from being labelled as stalkers.

To underline this point, Christopher Graham, the UK’s Information Commissioner, labelled some app developers’ attitudes to personal data protection as “cavalier.” He further warned marketers to take online data capture “more seriously.”

As a result of these comments, we were able to unearth details of how European regulators are working in unison to address potential areas of concern over app developers’ compliance with data protection laws.

A reminder if ever there was one of the scale of the potential disaster facing the entire online marketing industry.

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