Saira Nayak
Director of Policy | TRUSTe

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On Friday, the FTC issued a staff report entitled “Mobile Privacy Disclosures: Building Trust with Transparency”.  The report was endorsed by four commissioners (Julie Brill, Jon Leibowitz, Maureen Ohlhausen and Edith Ramirez, with newest commissioner Joshua Wright abstaining).

The report articulates a framework for mobile privacy based on the testimony of several industry experts (including TRUSTe VP of Product Kevin Trilli) at its May 2012 workshop on mobile disclosures.  The framework builds on the concepts of privacy by design, simplified choice and transparency that are the pillars of the FTC’s final privacy report that was issued in March 2012. The FTC also published an accompanying business guide, which recommends app developers consider important issues like security and data flows before an app is designed – and incorporating privacy by design into their business practice.

Much of the initial news cycle on was consumed with the FTC’s settlement and $800,000 fine (announced at the same time for COPPA and FTC Act violations by social networking app Path).  As the dust settles, and attention turns to the report itself, it’s becoming very clear that the FTC’s guidance goes much further than just COPPA and deceptive privacy policies.

First, the report outlines some important reasons why mobile privacy is so different from its desktop counterpart:

  • The personal nature of most mobile devices (which are rarely shared among users, unlike a desktop computer)
  • The ability to track a user’s location on many of the mobile devices available today – which in turns allows companies to ““reveal the habits and patterns that mark the distinction between a day in the life and a way of life”
  • The complicated nature of the mobile ecosystem and the many players who may be tracking a user – making notice to that user particularly difficult

Then, rather than setting out general concepts, the report goes on to identify specific requirements for the various players in the complicated, mobile ecosystem – platforms and operating systems (particularly important), ad networks, app developers, associations and academics.  In some ways, it reminds me of guidance provided by the EU’s Article 29 Working Party on online behavioral advertising, which identifies responsibilities depending on the role a company plays within the online ad ecosystem.

But the report goes a bit further than just recommending unified disclosures – it also endorses a DNT system for mobile devices (building on the recommendations from the final FTC report).

Providing unified disclosures and user preferences across the mobile ecosystem is a real challenge since most app and mobile web systems operate in isolation on a mobile device. But it’s also a challenge that we at TRUSTe have been working on for the last several months.  The result is TRUSTed Mobile Ads, the industry’s first and only unified privacy management platform for mobile advertising.  This solution allows a user to make tracking preferences from an in-app ad, an ad on the mobile web, or from within the app settings – and then allows the user to unify those preferences across apps and web through a downloadable TRUSTe app.


Stay Tuned for Part 2
In the second part of this post my colleague Brian Wiechoswki, Director of Mobile Business Development at TRUSTe, will discuss TRUSTed Mobile Ads in more depth, along with our recently announced deal with Millennial Media, the leading independent mobile advertising provider.             >>