Privacy controls to be adopted by mobile phone operators

Girls Around Me screenshot
Image caption Better privacy controls could stop apps grabbing data users want to stay private

International mobile operators are set to adopt guidelines designed to give customers more control over how data about them is used.

The industry initiative will develop tools to log what kinds of information consumers are happy to share.

The action will limit the kinds of data available to marketers and others if a subscriber adds restrictions.

Vodafone and three other companies have signed up to the initiative. Coca-Cola is understood to be considering it.

"There's a burning need for the industry to develop a way to communicate what the consumer has consented to," said Andrew Bud, head of the Mobile Entertainment Forum (MEF) which is co-ordinating the tools' development.

Currently, he added, firms had no standard way to log consumers privacy demands or tell business partners what data could be shared.

Data tags

Privacy preserving tools were needed, he said, because without them consumer confidence in mobile firms would be gradually eroded.

"Unless we solve that problem the industry is hamstrung from doing right by the consumer," said Mr Bud.

The MEF is overseeing the initiative to develop a system that "tags" data to show what can be shared.

Mr Bud said other systems already in use in the mobile entertainment world could be adapted to aid the privacy initiative.

For instance, he said, the system that preserved copyright data could prove a good starting point.

The move could prevent software from grabbing and using data that people do not wanted shared, as was seen in the case of the controversial "Girls Around Me" app.

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