App Developers: Keep Your Users Informed (or else)

Do We Worry About App Security Enough? It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up. This is usually said of political scandals, but it also applies to the mobile app data. In other words, users don’t normally care if an app collects their private data (currently not a crime, by the way). But if an app lies or misleads the user about the data they are collecting, then there’s a problem.

This situation has not been lost on the FTC, who recently released its “Mobile Privacy Disclosure: Building Trust Through Transparency” staff report. Here is Wired with a good explanation of the report, and also what it means for app developers:

The theme of the report is that mobile platform operating system providers (Amazon, Apple, BlackBerry, Google, and Microsoft), app developers, ad networks, and analytic companies need to provide consumers with timely, easy-to-understand disclosures about the data that is collected about them and how the data is utilized.

It appears to build on the September 2012 report “Marketing Your Mobile App: Get it Right From the Start”. Some of the recommendations in the September 2012 report include: build privacy considerations in from the start, honor your privacy promises, collect sensitive information only with consent, and keep user data secure

The overall theme of this staff report is that the mobile apps industry must do a better job of communicating to its users what data is being collected and how it is being utilized. If mobile apps stakeholders do not move in a timely manner to implement the recommendations in this report more regulation may be required to protect the personal privacy of consumers. The bottom line is that the FTC may closely monitor how stakeholders react to its recommendations to determine if more regulation may be required to protect the digital privacy of users.

While mobile apps offer some great benefits and exciting new ways to interact with others, there are tremendous privacy issues that need to be addressed. Mobile ecosystem gatekeepers and app developers need to work with regulators and lawmakers to protect the personal privacy of mobile app users and to ensure that the industry does not become over-regulated.

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