Lookout Launches In-app Ad Guidelines

Mobile security firm, Lookout, has launched its Mobile App Advertising Guidelines: A Framework for Encouraging Innovation While Protecting Privacy. The Mobile App Advertising Guidelines provide a framework to help app developers and ad providers – such as ad networks and ad exchanges – understand how they can explore new ad display techniques and access personal information, while adhering to strong privacy and user choice principles. By equipping mobile advertisers and developers with clear privacy and user experience guidelines, Lookout says it aims to enable growth and innovation in mobile advertising, while protecting user privacy and increasing the trustworthiness of ads.

“Mobile has become the dominant computing platform in an incredibly short amount of time, changing the lives of people around the world, and creating a booming economy for businesses and app developers,” says Kevin Mahaffey, Lookout CTO and co-founder. “In order for these great benefits to continue, everyone in the mobile ecosystem must respect individual privacy choices and hold user experience in the highest regard.”

Mahaffey adds that some mobile ad providers have adopted aggressive behaviour over the last year, including pushing out-of-app ads, changing browser and desktop settings, and accessing personally identifiable information without suitable notification or transparency. Based on Lookout’s analysis, more than 5 per cent of free apps have included “aggressive” ad networks, affecting millions of people.

“People want to have confidence and trust that they’re not being compromised while on devices that have access to their most personal information,” says Jules Polonetsky, director and co-chair of the Future of Privacy Forum. “For years many years, desktop users were plagued with programs that triggered pop-ups, added unwanted toolbars, and changed homepages. These guidelines make it clear, while mobile marketing business models and practices are still developing, that some practices are out-of-bounds. That’s good news for both consumers and responsible businesses.”

The Guidelines cover requirements and suggested best practices in the following areas: transparency and clarity of data collection; individual control over information collected; ad delivery and display behaviour; collection and retention of personal or device-specific data; and secure transport of sensitive data.  They include specific requirements for ad providers, for example: “Provide comprehensive, readable privacy policies and related FAQs to their app publishing partners, making educated integration easier for app developers”.

The Guidelines are available as a free download here.