FTC issues mobile privacy recommendations, cautions industry

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Washington, D.C.—The Federal Trade Commission released recommendations on how the mobile marketplace should voluntarily protect user privacy. If the mobile industry fails to do so, it could face government regulation, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said. Among its mobile platform recommendations, the FTC urged real-time disclosure to users about apps that access such information as geolocation. In addition, the FTC said that platforms should provide app developer privacy disclosures and educate developers about privacy best practices, and that companies consider offering a do-not-track method to prevent tracking of app usage by ad networks. “Mobile offers unique privacy challenges, tracking my location and building a detailed picture of my movements over time,” Leibowitz said in a conference call with the media. “Some companies are doing a good job in protecting consumer privacy, but if the rest don't wake up, my guess is that companies will face regulation down the road—and not that far down the road.” The FTC also announced today that it has reached a settlement with journal-sharing social site Path Inc. that penalizes the company for collecting and storing personal information from mobile-device address books without permission. Path has agreed to pay a fine of $800,000, establish a privacy program and obtain independent privacy assessments for 20 years. Leibowitz, who has been chairman of the FTC for four years, will step down from that role on Feb. 15.
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