New Privacy Guidelines for Mobile Apps


Do you and your employees use applications on mobile devices to conduct business? Perhaps your organization offers a mobile app to your clients and customers to enhance your products or services. While the availability and use of mobile apps has dramatically increased over the past few years, laws and regulations have not kept pace. Recent actions by federal and state government as well as marketing industry groups suggest that the legal landscape for mobile apps is evolving – particularly with respect to privacy rights.

This month, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued “Mobile Privacy Disclosures FTC Staff Report – Building Trust Through Transparency.” The FTC report includes recommendations for mobile app platforms including obtaining an “opt-in” or other affirmative consent before collecting geolocation, contacts, photos or other data from an app user. The report also recommends offering a “do not track” option to give an app user some control over data that could be a basis for target advertising. The FTC reached out to industry groups, privacy experts and the academic community to develop standard approaches and tools to address mobile app privacy concerns.

The day after the issuance of the FTC report, the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI), an online advertising association comprising almost 100 member companies, announced it will soon be releasing guidelines on the collection and use of data through mobile apps. Since 2008, the NAI has adopted a “Code of Conduct” for its members’ use of consumer data that includes requirements for transparency, education, notice, choice, use limitations, transfer restrictions, access, reliable sources, data security and accountability. Whether by industry standards or the adoption and enforcement of new laws, mobile app privacy practices will remain in the spotlight for the foreseeable future.

>> The FTC report is available here.
>> The NAI 2012 Compliance Report can be found here.