A CLO's Take on the FTC's Best Practices for Mobile Privacy Disclosures

Privacy has long been a buzzword in the world of mobile users, and regulations continue to adapt to the new abilities of smartphones. While phones used to have one sole purpose (making phone calls), today’s smartphones allow users to share detailed information about their lives, including their shopping habits, locations, and contacts.

While this technology is beneficial to consumers in many ways, it also poses security risks. People are concerned about just what information they are sharing and who can access this data without them ever knowing.

In a study conducted on mobile users by TRUSTe, nearly all of the 1000 users surveyed agreed that they were concerned about privacy on their mobile phone and wanted “more transparency and control over what personal information is collected and how it is shared.”

On Friday, the Federal Trade Commission addressed these concerns by releasing a new report on best practices for mobile privacy disclosures. With hopes of building trust and transparency between mobile developers and users, the report provides best practices for platforms (Android and iOS), App Developers, Advertising Networks, and App Trade Associations.

To reach these guidelines, the FTC convened a panel of representatives to discuss the security issues that users experience today, and what can be done to resolve them.

The main problem reported was a lack of understanding about what was being shared. Without this information, users don’t look for options to control sharing. Worse, when users learn that information is being shared that they were unaware of, they often feel slighted by the App.

The main solution involves clear, easy to recognize, and relevant privacy disclosures through the use of opt-in screens and icons.  The intent of these best practices is to make it much easier for a mobile user to do 3 things:

1)     Understand what information is being shared.

2)     Understand when information is being shared.

3)     Know how to opt out of information sharing.

CLO’s Take:

As a CLO, I am sensitive to the issue of mobile privacy. While location data provides valuable data for both consumers and companies, it needs to be voluntarily shared by the user.

I think the FTC left off an important focus of mobile privacy disclosures: to convey the benefits of data collection to consumers. For example, if sharing my information will do nothing but push irrelevant ads through to my phone, I’m not that interested. But, if sharing my location with my local coffee shop allows them to make my drink without me having to order it, I will gladly share my information with them.

As the world of guidelines and regulations for mobile data continues to evolve, Locaid will continue to be at the forefront.