Feb. 1, 2013 at 1:04 PM ET
The Federal Trade Commission said Friday it wants — but is not mandating — makers of mobile operating systems, app developers and advertisers to be provide "timely, easy-to-understand disclosures about what data they collect and how the data is used."
In a new report, "Mobile Privacy Disclosures: Building Trust Through Transparency," the commission said that most consumers are concerned, but confused, about how mobile privacy works — or doesn't.
"More than other types of technology, mobile devices are typically personal to an individual, almost always on, and with the user," the FTC said in the report. "This can facilitate unprecedented amounts of data collection."
Making its point hit home, also on Friday, the commission said it reached a settlement with social app Path to pay an $800,000 fine related to violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, and to "establish a comprehensive privacy program and to obtain independent privacy assessments every other year for the next 20 years." The FTC said the app's interface was misleading, giving consumers "no meaningful choice regarding the collection of their personal information."
In its mobile privacy report, the FTC cited a nationwide survey that found 57 percent of all mobile app users have "either uninstalled an app over concerns about having to share their personal information, or declined to install an app in the first place for similar reasons. Similarly, in a 2011 survey of U.S. smartphone users, less than one-third of survey respondents reported feeling in control of their personal information on their mobile devices."
Morgan Reed, executive director of the Association for Competitive Technology, a Washington-based trade group that represents small and mid-size software development companies, in a statement, called the FTC's recommendations a "sensible step, and one that ACT has been advocating to its members for some time."
Among the FTC's recommendations for mobile operating system platforms, such as iOS, Android, Windows and BlackBerry to consider:
Consumers should also be provided a "Do Not Track (DNT) mechanism," the FTC said, something that a majority of the commission has endorsed and "would allow consumers to choose to prevent tracking by ad networks or other third parties as they navigate among apps on their phones."
Reed, of the Association for Competitive Technology, said that app developer education is a "very important element in this process."
You can read the FTC's full report here.