Choose Your Own Adventure: The Reality of Mobile Advertising 2

This is a guest post by RJ Bardsley, Vice President, Racepoint Group.

In a recent story in the Wall Street Journal, reporters Scott Thurm and Yukari Iwatani Kane explore the reality of how much data some of the most popular Android and iPhone apps actually share.  The article starts off with a quick look at Pandora, the adorable, hugely popular music app. It turns out that Pandora shares demographic, location and personal details to eight different trackers.

I guess it’s naïve to say this is shocking – consumers in the North American market have given up a lot of privacy since the dawn of the Internet age in return for mobile and internet experiences that make our lives easier, more connected, more fun or just a little bit more interesting.  The reality of apps sharing data is that it will enable marketers and content publishers to create a more personalized (and ergo a better?) experience for users.  What does this mean?  Well, basically it means that if you’re downloading and using a lot of apps, you’re choosing your own mobile “adventure” without even knowing it.

Today the “adventure” is still in its early phases.  Your phone doesn’t change colors, tones and layouts based on what you chose to listen to on Pandora. But that scenario is not out of the realm of possibility.  That’s the cool side of it.  The uncool side of it is that you could say marketers are actually spying on consumers – especially when data is collected without notifying the user.

Where is the happy medium?  People have been searching for that since machines first started collecting data.  The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) offers some guidance in a Code of Conduct.  The MMA is a strong advocate of consumer privacy standards, but the organization is strictly voluntary and has no power to enforce anything.  As a consumer, you could turn off almost all the applications and features that collect and send data from your phone, but then you’d be left with a pretty boring piece of plastic and glass.

Should mobile brands move cautiously where privacy is concerned?  A survey of Wall Street Journal readers (an interactive part of the above-mentioned article) reveals that most consumers (66.5 percent) feel that apps should always tell users when they’re collecting data.  That seems to indicate that having a privacy-friendly image for your app or device would be beneficial.  That said, Pandora doesn’t seem to be suffering.

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