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The UK's mobile operators have agreed to pool and sell customer data in an attempt to stimulate the mobile advertising sector.

Announcing the move at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the GSM Association, whose members include 3, O2, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone, said it had created a "measurement process for mobile browsing that respects the privacy of mobile users and provides rich planning information for the media and advertising communities".

The quintet has pooled "anonymised" usage data from mobile web users and will sell it to advertisers to help them target users. GSM Association CEO Rob Conway said: "For the first time, the advertising community has access to real, aggregated mobile audience data, which offers insight into the most popular sites, ranked by number of visitors, page impressions, time and duration of visits."

Such monitoring is likely to concern privacy campaigners. AOL infamously released a dataset of "anonymised" web searches in 2006 that were easily traced to individuals.

The GSM Association said its database, "Mobile Media Metrics", would help advertisers better justify spending on mobile campaigns. It will begin offering access to third parties later this year.

Despite much hype, mobile campaigns currently account for a small proportion of digital advertising spend. Research outfit Strategy Analytics expects the UK mobile advertising market to be worth £187m by 2011. ®

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