FTC outlines steps that mobile companies can take to better inform users about data privacy

Alex Wagner
Editorial Director of News and Content from  Omaha, NE
| Published: February 1, 2013

Path Android app Galaxy Nexus

User privacy is a topic that seems to pop up on a fairly regular basis in the mobile space. One recent example is the app Path, which has agreed to pay an $800,000 fine for collecting user data without permission. Today the U.S. Federal Trade Commission touched on the subject of mobile privacy, suggesting ways that platform developers, application developers, ad networks and analytics firms can better inform consumers about their data practices and offer better data protection. 

When it comes to platform developers like Apple and Google, the FTC suggests that the companies make a user give consent before allowing apps to collect his or her personal information and content. The agency also says that these developers could create a dashboard in their platform in which users could view the types of information that their apps are accessing, as well as a special icon that would indicate when a user's info is being transmitted. Another suggestion is that the devs create a Do Not Track tool that would prevent third parties from accessing user information.

Meanwhile, the FTC says that app developers should have an easily accessible privacy policy for users to look over, and that apps should obtain a user's consent before collecting or sharing any of his or her data. Developers can also take part in trade groups or self-regulatory programs to learn how to create a uniform privacy disclosure.

Smartphones are becoming increasingly popular devices, and as the FTC notes, the information that's typically stored on them can be of an extremely personal nature. That's why it's important for apps and the platforms that they run on to have good, easily accessible privacy policies and ways for users to see just what information that their apps and smartphones may be collecting. The FTC says that 57 percent of users have uninstalled an app or opted not to install one at all due to privacy concerns, so offering a clear privacy policy could benefit a developer by making a user more trusting of the software that they're using. How many of you have ever stopped using an app or service due to a privacy issue?

Via PhoneScoop, FTC