FTC Releases Mobile Privacy Report After Public Letter from Consumer Watchdog

By Jacqueline Lee February 01, 2013

Advocacy organization Consumer Watchdog has released a letter that it sent to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) asking Congress to enact “Do Not Track” (DNT) legislation. The proposed legislation would give consumers protection regarding data collected about their online behaviors and how that data was transferred between organizations.

On the same day of the letter’s release, the FTC issued a staff report about online privacy. Specifically, the report focuses on protecting mobile privacy by getting information to consumers about when data is collected on mobile platforms.

The FTC report issued a number of recommendations for mobile platforms, app developers, advertisers and the scholarly community. For mobile platforms, the FTC recommended just-in-time disclosure of data collection, dashboards showing how apps collect data, an icon showing the transmission of consumer data and a set of developer best practices.

For developers, the FTC recommended participation in trade organizations or self-regulatory programs that would set standards regarding short-form privacy disclosures. When integrating third-party code into apps, developers should know how the code facilitates information collection and what information the third party is obtaining.

Advertisers and other third parties collecting information should work with mobile platforms to implement a DNT procedure. The scholarly community, says the FTC, should work to educate developers about privacy issues.

The recommendations from the FTC are accompanied by a business guide entitled Mobile App Developers: Start with Security. However, the FTC stopped short of endorsing DNT laws to protect consumers.

In the letter to the FTC, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Director, John M. Simpson, pointed to a bill introduced last year by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) that would create DNT laws. According to Consumer Watchdog, Rockefeller intends to reintroduce the bill sometime this year.

Simpson says that an FTC endorsement of the bill would at least get the advertising industry back to the negotiating table.

“We call on you and the entire Commission to endorse the urgent need for Do Not Track legislation,” Simpson stated. “If nothing else, the threat of legislation could be the stick that prompts a recalcitrant advertising industry to stop its foot dragging and re-engage in real negotiations.”

Edited by Braden Becker

Contributing Writer

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