5 top-level takeaways from the FTC staff report on mobile privacy disclosures

To Rat Pack types, "Just in Time" was a swingin' tune Dean Martin sang in the old musical "Bells Are Ringing."  It's still relevant to ringing bells, but now it's in the context of smartphones, tablets — and one of several suggestions the FTC is making to mobile platforms, app developers, ad networks, and others about how and when to disclose key privacy-related information to consumers.  Are you plugged in to what this could mean for your business?

You've probably paged through Mobile Privacy Disclosures: Building Trust Through Transparency: An FTC Staff Report.  It’s a follow-up to the agency’s May 2012 conference, In Short: Advertising & Privacy Disclosures in a Digital World, where one topic on the table was transparency in how companies collect and use information now that people are pretty much glued to their smartphones and tablets.

With so many players involved, who should provide privacy information to users?  What do people want to know?  And how do you manage that on a screen smaller than a decent-sized brownie?  Read the report for the details — including suggestions tailor-made for your corner of the mobile industry — but a few themes should ring true for businesses and consumers:

  1. The need for clear, just-in-time disclosures and affirmative express consent before apps collect or share certain kinds of information;
  2. The leverage platforms have and the key role they can play (along with app stores, developers, ad networks, and others) in improving mobile privacy disclosures;
  3. The benefits of a Do Not Track mechanism that would let mobile users choose to prevent tracking by ad networks and others as they navigate among apps on their mobile devices;
  4. The importance of working with others in the industry to educate consumers — and each other — about what’s going on behind the scenes and how best to convey that to users; and
  5. The benefits of short-form disclosures and standardized privacy policies for app developers that will let people “comparison shop” among apps.



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