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February 4, 2013

US FTC issues privacy protection guidelines for mobile industry

About 57% of app users have not installed or uninstalled an app as they were not willing to share their personal information, report says

By CBR Staff Writer

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has recommended in a staff report that stakeholders in mobile marketplaces, such as app developers, should improve users’ privacy controls.

The majority of the recommendations call for the stakeholders to ensure that consumers get timely, easy-to-understand disclosures about what data they collect and how the data is used.

FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said that 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.

"These best practices will help to safeguard consumer privacy and build trust in the mobile marketplace, ensuring that the market can continue to thrive," Leibowitz said.

The FTC also recomended that the mobile industry should offer a do-not-track feature in software and apps and take steps to protect personal information.

Additionally, the FTC wants the mobile app developers to consider using icons to give clarity on the type of information being collected from users, other than fine print.

The report said that the FTC staff strongly encourages companies in the mobile ecosystem to work expeditiously to implement the recommendations in this report.

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"FTC staff strongly encourages companies in the mobile ecosystem to work expeditiously to implement the recommendations in this report. Doing so likely will result in enhancing the consumer trust that is so vital to companies operating in the mobile environment."

"Moving forward, as the mobile landscape evolves, the FTC will continue to closely monitor developments in this space and consider additional ways it can help businesses effectively provide privacy information to consumers."

The FTC said that about 57% of app users have not installed or uninstalled an app as they were not willing to share their personal information, and that ‘less than one third of Americans’ feel that they are in control of their personal data on their mobile devices.

However, several firms have implemented some of the suggestions voluntarily, and regulators have sanctioned app developers over privacy violations.

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