TRUSTe’s New Mobile Privacy Management Solution Explained

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ADOTAS – Online privacy management company TRUSTe announced a new mobile privacy solution, “TRUSTed Mobile Ads” — using the Trusted Preference Identifier (TPID) device identification system, which users can opt out or in of being targeted ads by ad networks in both apps and the mobile web — at the ad:tech conference in San Francisco on Tuesday. This comes at a fortuitous, if not intentional, time for TRUSTe, just a couple weeks after Apple started rejecting apps that looked at UDIDs (unique device identifiers), following months of mulling over the privacy concerns around UDIDs (which could possibly be used to reveal a user’s personal information, though there are a lot of circumstantial factors affecting how easy or difficult that might be), and leading developers to come up with other solutions for targeting ads to mobile users. The TPID solution and TRUSTed Mobile Ads don’t necessarily represent an across-the-board replacement of what had been a common system, but they’re a suggestion, pointing to TRUSTe’s ideas about best practices in mobile privacy while working across, says the company, all platforms and mobile devices.

At ad:tech yesterday, TRUSTe CEO Chris Babel explained to ADOTAS some of the challenges in delivering ads — and in assuring the user’s sense of privacy — in mobile. “It’s very fragmented,” he said. “Even UDID is a fragmented solution. The challenge is, do I grab the UDID? How do you frequency cap an app?” Understanding how ad targeting works can be complicated for a user, too, he explained. “When people opt out, they’d think they were opting out on their phone — not in an app,” he pointed out. “If you get a targeted ad that’s not for you, that’s okay, but if you can’t opt out, that’s a problem.”

TRUSTe’s solution is designed to be more transparent, Babel explained. When you download an app onto your mobile, he said, “”you can opt in and opt out of networks. It can be more global, and we can also tie it back to the mobile web.” And unlike the standard cookie-based targeting system for the mobile web, wherein clearing out one’s cookies means can mean losing your preferences, TRUSTe’s system allows “the ability to renew and revoke. You would appear like a new user to the networks, but you’d keep your preferences.” And because the system and TPID compatible with other existing device identification tools, “it kills two birds with one stone,” Babel said. “If not only solves the question of fragmentation, it solves privacy issues.”

Babel acknowledged there’s still work to standardize solutions to privacy concerns, with issues like the fact that “what’s hard about privacy is that it’s a very personal issue,” as he put it, and how, when users are presented with a pop-up asking if they’d like to choose to accept cookies, “it’ll be interesting to see what they choose.” And he said TRUSTe is just making its own statement in this dialogue, not suggesting new universal rules. “It’s really going to be a group effort, getting the privacy issues off the table,” he said.

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