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FTC issues mobile privacy guidelines

Mon, 02/04/2013 - 3:19pm
Andrew Berg, Wireless Week

The FTC has issued a set of guidelines for mobile application developers. While not legally binding, the new rules were released on the same day as regulators announced a settlement with social networking provider Path.

The FTC report recommends ways that developers and mobile service providers can better inform consumers about their data practices. The report addresses specific players, suggesting best practices for mobile platforms, application developers, advertising networks, analytics companies and app developer trade associations.

Most of the recommendations involve making sure that consumers understand what data they collect and how the data is used.

“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.”

The report cites recent data showing that consumers increasingly are concerned about their privacy on mobile devices.  For example, 57 percent 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. Less than one-third of Americans feel they are in control of their personal information on their mobile devices.

The new guidelines seem to be a first step toward dealing with consumer privacy. The National Telecommunications and Information Agency, within the U.S. Department of Commerce, is working with other stakeholders to develop a code of conduct on mobile application transparency.

The FTC said that to the "extent that strong privacy codes are developed, the FTC will view adherence to such codes favorably in connection with its law enforcement work."

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