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FTC Report Examines Privacy in Mobile Marketplace

Mark Marich

Mobile app developers are the lifeblood of startup communities everywhere—don’t take our word for it, just visit a Startup Weekend and see how many ideas are pitched for new smartphone applications. However, a new set of recommendations from the Federal Trade Commission may make things a bit more difficult for them, calling for new ways to help safeguard consumer privacy.

Citing the “explosive growth of mobile services” as consumers purchased approximately 217 million smartphones in the fourth quarter of 2012 alone, Mobile Privacy Disclosures: Building Trust Through Transparency provides recommendations for mobile platforms, app developers and advertising networks. And while most of the recommendations do a good job walking the tightrope between trust and convenience, some may prove troublesome for app developers—according to a statement from the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation.

Specifically mentioned is the idea of "Do Not Track" for mobile devices which it argues “will diminish the ability of mobile developers to successfully monetize their products.” ITIF also expresses concern over recommended extra layers of privacy notices that at best may annoy consumers.

"What we don't want is for the government to create so many privacy rules and disclosures that the only people who can write apps are privacy lawyers and the only people who read the notices are privacy advocates," said Daniel Castro, a senior analyst with ITIF. "Innovation flourishes when risk-taking is encouraged and rewarded, not when government officials are peering over the shoulders of programmers and software engineers telling them what to do."

The report accompanies a new business guide from the FTC, Mobile App Developers: Start with Security, that encourages developers to aim for “reasonable data security” and includes tips such as making someone responsible for data security and taking stock of the data collected and maintained.

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