FTC Is Serious About Mobile Privacy Disclosures

On the same day that it announced a settlement with a mobile app developer Path – for collecting personal information from smart phone users’ address books without their knowledge or consent – the FTC released a report on mobile privacy disclosures, called “Building Trust Through Transparency.” The contemporaneous announcement of the settlement and release of the Report demonstrate that the FTC is taking an long and hard look, and an aggressive enforcement posture, with respect to appropriate disclosure of data collection from smart phones. The Report recommends ways that key players in the rapidly expanding mobile marketplace can better inform consumers about their data practices. There are specific suggestions for operating system providers, for app developers, for advertising networks and for all developer trade associations.  They all relate to disclosure and, to a large extent, on uniformity so that users can understand the policies they are (or are supposed to be) agreeing to. App developers, according to the Report, (a) should have a privacy policy and make sure that it is easily accessible through the app stores, (b) provide just-in-time disclosures and obtain affirmative express consent before collection and sharing sensitive information, and (c) improve coordination with ad networks and other third parties that provides services for apps to the app developers can provide accurate disclosures to consumers. The Path settlement and the FTC Report underscore the need for...

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