Security & Fraud

FTC Pushes Cross-Device Transparency To Consumers

FTC Cross-Device Tracking

In a new report, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provided recommendations for the industry on how to support transparency and choice for consumers when using cross-device tracking technology.

The Cross-Device Tracking: An FTC Staff Report highlights the technology, how it’s used to track consumers across various internet-connected devices and the ways in which the industry can address the implications of using the relatively new practice.

“It describes how cross-device tracking facilitates seamless experiences, can help to prevent fraud and more effectively target ads, and can increase competition in advertising,” a statement from the FTC noted.

“However, the report also acknowledges that cross-device tracking often takes place without consumers’ knowledge. It also discusses that consumers have limited choices to control such tracking and that it can result in caches of more — and more sensitive — data that need to be protected,” it continued.

According to the FTC, its report also outlines the self-regulatory efforts being made by the industry to address the challenges that come with cross-device tracking. The report suggests that those entities utilizing cross-device tracking technology should partake in truthfully disclosing its use to consumers and business partners and provide consumers with a choice about being tracked or not.

The report also provides guidance on obtaining a consumer’s consent and maintaining reasonable security to ensure there is no unauthorized usage of the collected sensitive data.

Last June, the FTC filed a complaint against Singapore-based digital advertising firm InMobi, which tracked the locations of hundreds of millions of consumers without permission. In its complaint, the FTC stated that the firm undermined phone carriers’ freedom of choice in regards to the collection of their location data.

According to the FTC, InMobi’s advertising network touches over 1 billion devices around the world via the apps that integrate its code. Even more troubling, a large proportion of the apps InMobi is embedded in are designed for young children, which is problematic since the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act bans such data gathering.

“Collectively, hundreds of millions of consumers have downloaded the thousands of child-directed applications from which defendant collected and used personal information,” the complaint stated. “Defendant collected such personal information each time an application made an ad request to their network — typically every 30 seconds when an application is in use.”

InMobi was ordered to pay a civil penalty of $950,000 and delete all information it collected from children and all information collected from adults who didn’t provide their consent.

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