FTC Gives Their Take On Mobile Privacy Recommendations

The smartphone market may be exploding, but with it, so too are consumer privacy concerns.

That’s why the Federal Trade Commission has weighed in on the industry, issuing its staff report on the best ways to safeguard mobile privacy last week. Based on the FTC’s “enforcement and policy experience,” plus a May 2012 FTC workshop that combined insights from the academic, consumer and industry worlds, the guidelines break down what mobile platforms, app developers, third parties and others can do to ensure safe privacy practices.

As evidence of need for such a guideline, the FTC issued some interesting statistics to go along wit their findings. For example, the report outlines that 217 million smartphones were purchased in Q4 2012 alone. The FTC also notes that 57 percent of consumers report uninstalling or avoiding apps due to privacy owners, while less than 33 percent of Americans feel in control of their personal mobile information.

“The mobile world is expanding and innovating at breathtaking speed, allowing consumers to do things that would have been hard to imagine only a few years ago,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. “These best practices will help to safeguard consumer privacy and build trust in the mobile marketplace, ensuring that the market can continue to thrive.”

Some of the FTC’s specific suggestions are below:

Mobile Platforms

According to the FTC, mobile platforms should consider providing “just-in-time” disclosures to consumers when attempting to access any information a user may consider sensitive. Examples include geolocation, contacts, photos, calendars, or audio and video content. They also recommend the creation of a single dashboard where users can control their privacy settings, as well as a “Do Not Track” mechanism for smartphones that disallows all third-party tracking across all apps.

App Developers

For app developers, the FTC suggests improving coordination and communication with ad networks and third parties so that all parties involved gain a better understanding of the privacy disclosures each should be issuing. The FTC also advises that app developers engage in self-regulation programs that can “provide guidance on how to make uniform, short-form privacy disclosures,” and recommends having a privacy policy that is easily accessible through app stores.

Ad Networks/Third Parties

For ad networks and third parties – those most likely to look to stretch privacy laws – the FTC recommends direct work with platforms to ensure DNT capabilities, ad re-emphasized the importance of communication with app developers to ensure that all disclosures are made properly and made properly.

To read more on the FTC’s recommendations regarding mobile privacy, view their full release here.

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