Bluetooth Marketing Law Briefing
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) went from regarding Bluetooth marketing law as being covered by the Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations to considering that such marketing was in fact not covered.
The DBERR (the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform - the new, long-winded, name for the Department of Trade and Industry) changed the legal position on Bluetooth marketing. The window of opportunity for marketing by Bluetooth technology that opened is closing once more.
"The Department wishes to work with the European Commission during the review of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive to find the best way to evolve the current rules."
"We will be looking to ensure that definitions are suitable for new technological developments in communications technology. We will speak to stakeholders to gauge the size of the problem in relation to Bluetooth and will discuss, in the context of the review, any changes with them."
From the DBERR statement, it doesn't seem likely that the "window of opportunity" will be closed any time soon. The story also quotes a representative from the European Commission who appears to regard Bluetooth marketing law as not being a current issue, and not worth legislating on at this time.
Whilst making predictions is hazardous, it appears that there are unlikely to be any moves to legislate on Bluetooth marketing at any time soon. Bluetooth marketing law isn’t so well-defined as opt-in to email, for instance. The EU Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive (PECR) checklist point 7 suggests Bluetooth is outside PECR.
Because of the peception of bluetooth spam, any direct bluetooth legislation has been superseded by a focus on consumers opt-in to, for example:
- Push notifications - typically across mobile or in-store Wifi networks, including during the provision of 'free' Wifi connectivity
- Multiscreen advertising - proximity targeting of ads on media sites. This would be when the custoer approaches a billboard, bus shelter or store front
- QR codes - scanning a QR or barcode could be deemed a deifinite act of consent, thus opt-in. If, however, scanning delivers or reveals additional information (piggybacked on the desired information or action), this would be illegal, possibly even trespass!
On a related note, Mobile Marketing Magazine reports that the Direct Marketing Association is advising its members to apply the same principles to Bluetooth marketing as marketers must by law apply when marketing using other electronic communications methods such as email and text message.
This is probably the best solution, and most ethical way to undertake any Bluetooth promotion. Most promotion using Bluetooth uses Blujacking - sending information via Bluetooth to a device - mobile phone, PDA or computer. BlueSnarfing - where data is taken from such devices is and remains illegal, as this is a form of trespass.
Generally speaking, the investment needed for Bluetooth marketing is regarded as too high for most budgets and is ignored. It has value, if undertaken correctly, but it is still a grey area.
- The DMA Mobile & Connected Marketing guide (opens a PDF in a new window)
- Mobile Marketing Best Practice Guidelines - TextBlue. Another DMA guide (opens a PDF in a new window)
- BlueSpam - an admission by the UK information Commissioner that Bluetooth is not covered (opens in a new window)
Glossary: Advertising, Astroturfing, BlueSnarfing, Bluetooth, Blujacking, Can-Spam, Cloaking, Dark Marketing, Direct Marketing, Email, Email Harvesting, Email Marketing, Grey Marketing, Guerrilla Marketing, Interruption Marketing, Link Baiting, Mobile Marketing, Personal Digital Assistant, Pharming, Phishing, Short Messaging Service, Siphoning, Spam, Spyware, Trojan Virus, Viral Marketing, Virus