The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has just issued a staff report (February 2nd) recommending an array of ways to improve the privacy disclosures that consumers get from the major players in the mobile world. The FTC recommendations have the goal of protecting consumers even more as they use mobile devices to access the Internet. The recommendations are directed to application developers;  major operators of mobile platforms (e.g., Amazon, Apple, Blackberry, Google, Microsoft); and other key mobile world players (e.g.,advertising networks, analytics companies; relevant applications developer trade association).

The entire FTC report is based on its own experience with mobile issues as well as a May 2012 workshop they held specifically focused on mobile devices privacy disclosures.  The entire report can be found on its website (www.ftc.gov).

Here are a few of the key recommendations that were made:

For mobile platforms, it is recommended:

  •  A “Do Not Track” feature should be offered for smartphone users to allow consumers to choose if they do or don’t want to be tracked by advertising networks or other 3rd parties;
  • Provide “just-in-time” disclosures to consumers and get their express affirmative consent before apps could access sensitive information such as geolocation;
  • Consider developing icons that depict the transmission of the user’s data.

For Application developers. it is recommended:

  • They have a privacy policy that’s easily accessible through the applications’ stores;
  • They provide “just-in-time” disclosures and get express affirmative consent before collecting and sharing sensitive information (if the platforms haven’t already provided these disclosures and already gotten such consent).

For Advertising networks and other 3rd parties, it is recommended:

  • They communicate with the application developers so the latter can provide consumers with accurate and truthful disclosures;
  • Collaborate with mobile platforms to ensure an effective “Do Not Track” implementation for mobile.

For Application developer trade associations, it is recommended:

  • They collaborate with academics, privacy and usability research experts on developing a short form disclosure for application developers;
  • They promote the use of standardized application developer privacy policies to enable consumers to compare data practices across the various applications they use and/or might use.

The FTC’s report is not binding on the mobile industry but provides recommendations that would strengthen consumers’ online privacy.