The new role of the customer at the centre stage in marketing, particularly when it comes to mobile, has made privacy and personalization two key areas to address in 2011 and beyond.

The fact that mobile is so much more personal than any other channel and allows brands to tailor their messages far more closely to the consumer also creates a balancing act between the demand for personalization and the need to protect consumer data and privacy.

Whilst customers want to cut out irrelevance and maintain control over what they receive, this also means sharing a certain level of information about their personal lives, which does not always sit happily with concerns over how they share that data and how it will be used. Establishing a middle way between these two elements will therefore be of central importance for the industry as mobile progresses.

MMA recognises the fact that there are growing privacy concerns given the kind of consumer data that is put out there through the use of various mobile services. We have seen some progress in terms of practices employed by industry members and are continuously working toward a more transparent and secure consumer environment. We at MMA have seen tremendous response from our members when it comes to initiatives related to consumer privacy. It is high on the priority list as there is a clear understanding that it is an absolutely essential component for sustaining the industry and helping it grow.

The MMA recently announced the launch of an initiative focused on the development of a comprehensive set of mobile privacy guidelines to complement its already well-established Global Code of Conduct. The objective of these guidelines is to address the growing need for marketers and consumers to have a transparent, accepted understanding as to how consumer information is collected and used for the purposes of relevant value exchange within a mobile marketing context and across market sectors. The launch of this initiative shows the MMA’s and Mobile industry’s ongoing commitment to the importance of consumer transparency with regards to privacy issues and data collection. The industry recognizes that in order for marketers and publishers to responsibly and sustainably engage consumers through and with the mobile channel, we need to continuously update how we address the collection, management and use of personal data or related consumer information.

Since its inception, MMA’s mission has been to educate this influencer network on industry best practices and codes of conduct in order to ensure responsible, un-intrusive provision of mobile marketing services. The goal is to equip these industry players with the relevant knowledge needed for them to self-regulate their activities.

MMA recognizes that wireless subscribers have a right to privacy and there are a number of rules that content providers need to abide by in order to respect this right of the subscribers. As per MMA guidelines, content providers must obtain approval from subscribers before sending commercial SMS or MMS messages and other content. Directions on how to unsubscribe from the program should be included in the program messaging on a regular basis. Content providers must also always be cognizant of the number of messages they are sending to participants in their programs to avoid a poor user experience. Premium rate programs require double opt-in. The goal of any opt-in is to communicate to the subscriber the financial obligation they are about to incur by entering the program.

It is fundamental to the concept of control that a subscriber maintains the ability to stop participating and receiving the messages from a program when desired. To facilitate this capability, upon entering a program, the subscriber must be told how to opt-out of the program. A subscriber can stop participating and receiving messages from any program by sending STOP/ END/ CANCEL/ UNSUBSCRIBE/ QUIT to the short-code used for the program. When sent, these words cancel the subscriber's previous opt-in for messaging.

It is important for subscribers to understand and be in control of their participation and, therefore, program information must be transparent. Regardless of manner of entry for a subscriber, help messaging commands, phone numbers, URLs and email addresses should result in the subscriber receiving help with their issue. Moreover, HELP messages should not result in premium charges to the subscriber's bill.

Additionally, MMA has special guidelines to ensure the legibility of sweepstakes and contests. These cover everything from declaration of prizes to be awarded and the method for awarding such prizes to ensuring that sweepstakes/contests involving premium charges include an alternate free method of entry. A complete copy of rules is expected to be submitted before any such contests are rolled out and prizes need to be age appropriate.

Rohit DadwalThe guidelines and other regulatory literature produced by MMA has a great deal of contribution from its members and is proof of the industry’s dedication toward eradicating unethical practices. MMA’s main focus is to continue to involve its members in these processes as well as encourage them to adhere to these guidelines in the interest of consumer welfare. We will continue to work towards educating the industry and hope that our members and the industry as a whole use this global wealth of knowledge to avoid any breach of consumer rights. We would like to encourage consumers to be more vigilant when opting into mobile marketing services and to be sure about all the necessary costs and terms involved when participating in any campaigns. We also encourage consumers to continue to raise their concerns and share as much feedback as possible for the industry to learn and grow.

Once brands have aligned their strategies to incorporate all of these customer centric elements, the final piece to the puzzle will be establishing what the emerging business models in mobile marketing are and how the ecosystem as a whole will make money in the new world where the end user has control.

By Rohit Dadwal, Managing Director, Mobile Marketing Association Asia Pacific Limited