February 08, 2013
Intellectual Property Alerts

FTC Issues Recommendations to Improve Mobile Privacy Disclosures
by Cyrus Wadia

The Federal Trade Commission issued a staff report recommending ways that mobile platform operators, mobile application developers, advertising networks and analytics companies, and mobile app developer trade associations can best inform consumers about their data practices. 
  
The Report – entitled Mobile Privacy Disclosures: Building Trust Through Transparency – makes several recommendations, broken down by the type of mobile player: 


PLATFORMS/OPERATING SYSTEM PROVIDERS
  • Provide “just-in-time” disclosures and obtain consumers’ prior consent before collecting sensitive content such as geolocation data
  • Provide “just-in-time” disclosures and obtain prior consent before collecting other types of sensitive information (contacts, photos, etc.)
  • Develop a one-stop privacy dashboard for consumers to review types of content accessed by their mobile apps
  • Develop icons to depict user data transmission
  • Promote best practices by app developers
  • Provide disclosures in the app store before consumers even download apps, and follow up with compliance checks on apps
  • Implement a Do Not Track mechanism for smartphone users


APPLICATION DEVELOPERS


  • Have a privacy policy that’s easily accessible through app stores
  • Provide “just-in-time” disclosures and obtain consumers’ prior consent before collecting sensitive information
  • Coordinate and communicate with ad networks and other third parties such as analytics companies in order to provide accurate disclosures to consumers
  • Participate in self-regulatory programs, trade associations and industry organizations to provide guidance on creating uniform, short-form privacy disclosures


ADVERTISING NETWORKS AND ANALYTICS COMPANIES


  • Coordinate and communicate with app developers so that developers can provide accurate disclosures to consumers
  • Work with platforms to ensure implementation of Do Not Track


APP DEVELOPER TRADE ASSOCIATIONS, ACADEMICS, USABILITY EXPERTS AND PRIVACY RESEARCHERS


  • Develop short form disclosures for app developers
  • Promote standard app developer privacy policies
  • Educate app developers on privacy issues

The Report also notes that compliance with industry-wide codes of conduct on mobile application transparency will be looked on “favorably” in connection with the FTC’s enforcement work. The Report also comes hot on the heels of the California Attorney General's Office recommendations on mobile app privacy.

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