FTC Urges Improvements in Mobile Privacy Disclosures

Feb 07, 2013

FTC hopes to build trust between app providers and mobile users through more transparent data practices.

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued a report urging mobile operating system and mobile application developers to improve privacy disclosures to consumers. The report, titled “Mobile Privacy Disclosures: Building Trust Through Transparency,” offers recommendations for providing users with more information about data practices.

Substantial amounts of user data can be accessed from mobile devices through downloaded apps, giving rise to privacy concerns. A Pew Research Center study cited in the report indicates that “57% of all app users have either uninstalled an app over concerns about having to share their personal information or declined to install an app in the first place for similar reasons.”

This latest report, which follows the FTC’s “Privacy Report” detailing best practices for businesses to protect consumers’ privacy, provides specific recommendations aimed at application developers, operating system providers, advertising networks, and other third parties. Some of the FTC’s recommendations include:

  • Providing just-in-time disclosures to consumers and obtain their consent before allowing apps to access sensitive content.
  • Developing a one-stop “dashboard” approach to let consumers review the types of content accessed by apps.
  • Developing icons to display the transmission of user data.
  • Promoting app developer best practices.
  • Consider offering a Do Not Track (DNT) mechanism for smartphone users, which would allow consumers to choose to prevent tracking by ad networks or other third parties.

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