FTC Privacy Guide Goes Live – Mobile a Major Focus

Posted by at 10:26 am on March 26, 2012

Federal Trade Commission has posted its Internet privacy recommendations as of Monday. The guidelines include its well-known Do Not Track recommendations, which would have companies honor browser settings to block ad cookies and other tracking, but would have a significant mobile component. Officials have suggested that mobile services improve and provide “short, meaningful disclosures” about privacy safeguards to make sure that users both see and understand their options.

A workshop on May 30 would both provide an updated look beyond the report and provide some advice on how to make mobile privacy notices effective.

Other recommendations include one for “targeted” laws that would require giving customers access to information about them held by a data broker. The FTC would ideally have a central database where these brokers could explain how they get data and what options users have. The agency would encourage an effort by the Department of Commerce and private companies to develop a self-regulatory process for privacy, and another public workshop in the second half of 2012 would tackle issues with Internet providers tracking their customers.

The guidelines aren’t legally binding, but they’re expected to serve as a basis for voluntary action as well as the possible template for legislation. Google will have already violated one of the regulations by bypassing Safari cookie settings to enable +1 buttons. While not intended for advertising or other tracking, it both followed without active consent and ended up allowing third-party advertisers access in the process.

The advice equally follows concerns over Google’s unified privacy policy, which some say forces users to either agree to all services or log out after each dispute. Mobile privacy is coming closer to the forefront as well, with investigations of mobile app privacy underway to see how much information about contacts and media was being sent without permission.

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