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Consumers say no to mobile ad tactics

Advertising privacy

By Stewart Mitchell

Posted on 13 Jul 2012 at 13:43

Advertising companies are eyeing the potential benefits of smartphone marketing, but research suggests consumers are wary of their tactics.

According to the Internet Advertising Bureau, mobile ad industry was worth £203 million last year, more than twice its 2010 value - and with increased smartphone uptake, marketers see huge potential.

Yet the industry's vision of the future is greatly at odds with how users want their information used, according to research from Berkeley University.

The study from the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology found that some of the key ways advertisers and app developers want to interact with users are hugely unpopular.

Under our current regulatory regime, firms can and do cram questionable demands for contact lists and other sensitive information in disclosures

One of the great promises of mobile advertising from an industry point of view involves adverts being tailored and sent to consumers depending on their location, allowing shops to flag offers when potential customers are in the vicinity.

However, more than nine out of ten mobile phone users said they would reject this intrusion if they were given the option.

"Consumers are overwhelmingly against this," the report found. "We asked respondents whether they would allow wireless service providers to use their locations to tailor advertising to them. Overall, 92% of respondents said that they would 'definitely' or 'probably' not allow the use of location data for this purpose."

Whether consumers will be given the choice remains to be seen, with the report concluding that the phone apps and advertising ecosystem were fundamentally geared against privacy.

Lack of trust

Earlier this year, for example, social networking app Path came under fire when it was caught gathering customer contacts, and in the weeks that followed other companies were also exposed doing the same thing, forcing Apple to change its practices and demand consent from users before allowing access to contact lists.

The research found that 93% of respondents would not allow apps to get their contact lists, which might have put an end to the practice, but the study warned that companies snuck permission past users.

"Under our current regulatory regime, firms can and do cram questionable demands for contact lists and other sensitive information in disclosures," the researchers found. "Greater transparency and consent requirements could help, but only if consumers can realistically make decisions that align more closely with their preferences for privacy than many of the value propositions available in the market today.

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User comments

Survey shows what?

How the ads reach the mobile phone is not really relevant in any case
Ask any group if they want adverts and the answer is likely to be the same.

Muddying the questions with provisions such as 'if it means you get an app for free' or other suggestions is not the point - People would simply rather not have adverts

By greemble on 13 Jul 2012

Quelle surprise!

I'm with greemble.

Nobody 'wants' Ads, but in reality most people will tolerate them in a diffuse sort of way (Google seraches, ITV, Sky etc) if they are incidental and generalised.

As soon as Ads become targeted I think most people find them at the least intrusive and potentially sinister

By wittgenfrog on 13 Jul 2012

Ads, why not?

Who has flicked through a Sunday suplement and NOT scanned the ads. I find magazines with zero advertising rather a bore - if I'm interested in magazine's material then I'm probably interested in the stuff being advertised, for the most part, as well. I'm a consumer after all, I like 'stuff', I like to look through shop windows, I like to see what's new, etc.

But it is how it's done that makes the difference. With a magazine I know I am not being stalked by the advertiser, profiled by their bots, harvested, etc. I don't worry that my contacts are being stolen, that my clicks are being counted, my search terms sniffed.

Oh yes, and in a magazine the adverts don't move around the page, burst out of their frames or start speaking at me. One day maybe the advertising guys will learn that more is not always better.

By martindaler on 13 Jul 2012


I am not a consumer, I am a free man

By wittgenfrog on 15 Jul 2012


Who is Number 1?

Personally, I don't turn on the location services on my mobile, I don't use the navigation software, so I save battery life and have it turned off.

I also rarely look at my phone when out shopping (if I even have it with me).

By big_D on 16 Jul 2012

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