FTC recommends Google, Apple, BlackBerry, Microsoft, & app devs improve mobile privacy disclosures

Screen Shot 2013-02-01 at 10.51.38 AMThe Federal Trade Commission released a report today that recommends how owners of mobile platforms can better inform consumers about how their data is being handled. The FTC named a number of companies in its report, including: Amazon, Apple, BlackBerry, Google, and Microsoft, as well as “application (app) developers, advertising networks and analytics companies, and app developer trade associations.”

The recommendations follow the FTC updating its online child privacy law to require parental consent before collecting data from children under the age of 13. It also came as Path agreed to pay an $800,000 settlement to the FTC over last year’s privacy controversy.

In the report, titled “Mobile Privacy Disclosures, Building Trust Through Transparency,” the FTC issued a number of recommendations. The FTC recommended that all platform owners “Provide just-in-time disclosures to consumers and obtain their affirmative express consent before allowing apps to access sensitive content like geolocation.” It recommended app developers take the same measures in addition to having “a privacy policy and make sure it is easily accessible through the app stores.” The report also suggested that companies implement a ” a one-stop “dashboard” into their operating systems so consumers can easily view how their data is being handled by specific apps.

Other recommendations the FTC asked Apple and others to implement include new icons that “depict the transmission of user data” and a “Do Not Track” option for users to easily opt out of their data being sent to third parties.

“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 report states.

A full list of the recommendations made by the FTC for mobile platform owners, advertising agencies, and app developers is below:
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EU watchdog asks Google CEO Larry Page to pause introduction of new privacy policy

European regulators want Google to stop introduction of a new privacy policy that consolidates user information from the search giant’s many services until it investigates possible privacy concerns. The new privacy policy is due to come into effect on March 1. According to Reuters, the Article 29 Working Party, an independent body that brings together data protection authorities from each of the European Union’s 27 countries, and the EU’s executive European Commission, wrote in a letter to Google CEO Larry Page:

Given the wide range of services you offer, and the popularity of these services, changes in your privacy policy may affect many citizens in most or all of the EU member states. We wish to check the possible consequences for the protection of the personal data of these citizens in a coordinated way. In light of the above, we call for a pause in the interests of ensuring that there can be no misunderstanding about Google’s commitments to information rights of their users and EU citizens, until we have completed our analysis.

Google’s woes with the European Union also include the planned acquisition of handset maker Motorola Mobility, pending an antitrust review by the European Commission and another probe over an alleged misuse of its market position.

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Lawmakers to Google: ‘We want to make sure’ unified policy protects consumer privacy, calls for FCC probe

Rep. Edward Markey, a prominent U.S. lawmaker on privacy issues, announced earlier this week he was concerned with Google’s new privacy policy, and he further addressed his worries on Thursday by calling for a probe into Google’s handling of consumer data.

Google’s offerings include its globally popular search engine, Gmail, YouTube, Search plus Your World, Google+, and more, which are streamlined under the merging of 60 privacy policies intended to “mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience.” The unified policy’s primary objective is to assemble and integrate information from across Google’s products and services as a single throng of data that the Mountain View, Calif.-based Company can use to target advertising dollars.

Markey released a Jan. 26 statement contending that the new policy changes should allot premium consumer control, and in the meantime, he plans to ask the Federal Communications Commission to investigate if such options exists for Google users:

“All consumers should have the right to say no to sharing of their personal information, particularly when young people are involved.  Google’s new privacy policy should enable consumers to opt-out if they don’t want their use of YouTube to morph into YouTrack.  Consumers – not corporations – should have control over their own personal information, especially for children and teens. I plan to ask the Federal Trade Commission whether Google’s planned changes to its privacy policy violate Google’s recent settlement with the agency.”

More information is available below.

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