Mobile Marketing

Issue
Among the fastest growing media for content, including advertising, are mobile devices. An array of competing delivery technologies, service providers and devices complicates any proposed system of regulation, while corporate best practices and industry guidelines make consumer protection a top priority. Corporations recognize that unwanted intrusion on personal mobile devices would invite a negative backlash.

AAF Position
The AAF supports industry self-regulation efforts to ensure consumer privacy and believes that further government regulation would only stymie innovation while denying consumers new avenues toward services beneficial to them. Unsolicited commercial messages already violate several laws, including CAN-SPAM and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which bans any disruption of consumer networks.

Opposition
Despite no evidence of any misuse of consumer information, as well as mobile companies and third-party advertising providers denying any improper use of data, some consumer protection groups have called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate and regulate privacy issues surrounding mobile phone use, including location tracking and profiling. One group asserted that the mere possibility that companies may misuse consumer information justifies the FTC to take action.

Status
At a May 2008 FTC workshop on mobile marketing, major cell phone carriers highlighted mechanisms already in place that allow consumers to block any surreptitious or otherwise unwanted text messages.

While the FTC has no current plans to change policies on mobile marketing, FTC Commissioner Jonathan Liebowitz has said he is concerned about increased marketing to cell phones and has warned mobile content providers that they must improve disclosure of premium content costs on cell phones.

At the workshop, the Center for Digital Democracy, a consumer privacy group, announced they will formally call on the FTC to investigate privacy issues surrounding mobile devices, including location tracking and profiling. The group said that the possibility that companies may misuse consumer information justifies the FTC to take action, despite no evidence of such misuse and mobile companies flatly denying any improper use of personal data.

Legislation

S. 3138: The Junk Text Message Prevention Act, introduced by Sens. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., Ben Nelson, D-Fla., Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine. This bill would permit cell phone users to opt-out of receiving all unwanted commercial text messages by including text messages in the scope of the federal Do-Not-Call Registry. The bill would clarify and strengthen powers given to the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission concerning unwanted text messaging. No hearings have been held.

Last updated: Ocotber 2008

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