FTC Recommends Apple, App Developers to Improve Mobile Privacy Disclosures

ftc-mobile-privacyThe Federal Trade Commission has posted a report laying out basic guidelines for platform owners and app developers to better handle mobile privacy disclosures, a topic of huge concern as smartphones become deeply ingrained in our daily lives and come in contact with highly personal data.

The report calls out makers of popular phone operating systems Apple, Google, Amazon, BlackBerry and Microsoft, app developers for all platforms, advertising companies and third party analytics services to improve upon their privacy disclosures to let users know how much of their personal data is being collected, and how is it being used.

The list of recommendations for platform owners:

  • “Just-in-time disclosures” that ask for a user’s consent before accessing sensitive information like GPS data, contacts, photos etc.
  • A centralised dashboard letting the user see which apps are accessing what content.
  • Promote and enforce developer best practices, like making sure apps have a section to display privacy disclosures.
  • Let end-users know the process of an app review before giving an approval, and ensuring apps comply to disclosure rules even after they go live on stores.
  • Implement Do Not Track (DNT), a way to let users opt out of third party advertiser tracking in apps. This is already implemented in web browsers, including Safari.

Apple’s already implemented a lot of the suggestions made in the points above, including a way to at least let the user to reset his or her device’s advertising identifier, thus limiting third party tracking.

The FTC recommends app developers to make the privacy policy of apps easily accessible to users, hopefully in a language that could be understood not just by lawyers but by the general public as well. The commission also urges app developers to use third-party ad and analytics libraries with caution, since most of them are available in a binary format with the underlying source code not visible. It adds that developers should improve communication and coordination with makers of these libraries to better understand what data is being transmitted from the user’s device.

You can read the entire report in pdf format here.

Via: TNW