If you've been scanning through the various application stores lately, you might have noticed just how many apps are available for no purchasing price at all -- but that doesn't exactly mean that they are free. In order to provide an application for free in the App Store or Android marketplace, companies are usually using ad support, which directly tags, exchanges and collects data from each person downloading the app.
Since some people are more aware of this practice than others, and there has been little to be done to opt-out of such data collection and targeting, on company is announcing an opt-out system for mobile applications.
The privacy solutions provider, TRUSTe, announced Tuesday its newest product called TRUSTed Mobile Ads
The solution helps consumers take control of their information and choose how it is used.
TRUSTe developed this way for app companies to communicate with smartphone owners and increase the transparency in their practices. Created in partnership with leading mobile advertisers, publishers, networks and platforms, TRUSTed Mobile Ads is an end-to-end privacy management solution builds upon TRUSTe’s existing Web advertising privacy management solution, TRUSTed Ads.
TRUSTe’s solution is a response to the resent scrutiny of mobile app privacy practices and increased consumer privacy concerns since many don't even have privacy policies and others do not specify how long they hold onto the information of how to be removed from ad targeting lists.
TRUSTe research revealed that nearly two-thirds of mobile apps still lack privacy policies and almost three-quarters of US consumers worry about their privacy when using mobile apps. The company also found that 88% of US consumers indicate they will not do business with a company they do not believe protects their privacy.
All of these findings point out that putting power in the hands of the consumer will help instill more confidence in the brand and allow users that don't want to hand over their information can be prompted to buy the same application for a fee (rather than in exchange for their consumer behaviors).
Several leading mobile advertisers, publishers, networks and platforms have already signed on to roll-out TRUSTed Ads Mobile, including: content publisher, Electronic Arts (EA); and ad networks and platforms, HasOffers, Human Demand, InMobi, Medialets, and Nexage.
I caught up with Kevin Trilli, a vice president at TRUSTe, to find out just how important it is to give consumers the power over their own data.
"We want to allow users to be aware that the targeting is happening and then to opt out if they choose," Trilli explained to me. "In the mobile app space, there are a lot of companies monetizing by selling information to third parties, but it would be just as easy to offer it as an option and increase their apps at an upfront cost."
Since most application subsidize their free services with advertising and targeted data collection, using the TRUSTe Ads Mobile as a feature in the app could allow brands to inform people about their practices and prompt those not willing to share data to a paid app or other services they have.
Then TRUSTe would include its seal and the options to opt out of various or all services right inside the application -- developers can choose where on the app this seal and link would go and can even add extra dialogue to explain why they do what they do and how they can get more services from the company.
"Many consumers don't mind their data being used for free service, but the ones that do care are very loud about it and it negatively impacts the brand, so why not instill trust in a simple way," Trilli said. "Most people like knowing there is an opt-out option and never actually opt-out."
With more people turning to their mobile devices as a main method of communication and Internet access, privacy and transparency are becoming more serious topics to understand. Over the past few months, the media and many researchers have been astonished at how common the lack of data-sharing transparency is.
Even though Apple asked all app developers in August 2011 to discontinue the use of unique device identifiers (UDIDs), TRUSTe found in its February study that 72% of the top iOS apps collected UDIDs and many passed the information on to third parties -- some without any added encryption.
With so much data being collected, having a transparent and trustworthy brand may be a key factor in usership of particular apps in the future and TRUSTe will likely be releasing more products in this vein in the near future.