Privacy Issues

In the paper “Direct Marketing: Mobile Phones, and Consumer Privacy: Ensuring Adequate Disclosure and Consent Mechanisms for Emerging Mobile Advertising Practices” Nancy King discusses the companies’ necessity to inform mobile phone users about disclosure privacy, and argues that current federal and state regulations are inadequate and don’t protect consumers’ privacy in mobile advertising. King suggests that one solution is to oblige companies to have a more transparent approach and notify consumers about the company’s privacy practices. Among several recommendations, she also suggests the use of privacy enhancing technologies (PETs) to protect consumer’s identity.

On the other side, James Nehlf criticizes King’s suggestions, alleging that consumers don’t have the capacity to judge whether to opt in or opt out of a proposed privacy-reducing transaction. He explains that consumers cannot make an informed choice because they don’t know “what is at stake” (p.54). As the Jamster case shows, the lack of a coherent mobile advertising policy and the lack of a better understanding of disclosure practices are allowing companies to take advantages of consumers indiscriminately.

 To me, the problems regarding privacy in mobile advertising are occurring for a simple reason: technologies are evolving in such a fast pace that they give legislators no time to rebuild every paragraph of regulations. Similarly, mobile technologies are being developed much faster than the consumers’ capacity to judge whether they are beneficial or not. I believe that King’s approach would probably not solve all the privacy issues, but it would help mobile users to start reflecting on this matter and might influence them to investigate regulations before exposing their private data.

Questions:

1.       Is there any wireless carrier that is taking a more transparent approach in regards to consumers’ privacy disclosure?

2.       Are there other public known cases of irregular mobile selling practices? If so, what were the measures taken to punish those that committed infractions?

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