The Law and Business of Social Media
February 07, 2013 - FTC, Privacy, Litigation

FTC Announces Important Settlement With Social Networking App and Releases New Mobile App Report

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced a potentially groundbreaking settlement with the social networking app Path and released an important new staff report on Mobile Privacy Disclosures late last week.

The FTC’s Settlement with Path suggests a new standard may be on the near-term horizon: out-of-policy, just-in-time notice and express consent for the collection of data that is not obvious to consumers in context. The FTC has long encouraged heightened notice and consent prior to the collection and use of sensitive data, such as health and financial information. This settlement, however, requires such notice and consent for the collection and use of information that is not inherently sensitive, but that, from the Commission’s perspective, at least, might surprise consumers based on the context of the collection. Only time will tell, but historically Order provisions like this have tended to become cemented as FTC common law. Moreover, although the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) portions of the settlement do not break new ground, they do serve as a potent—and expensive—reminder that the FTC is highly focused on kids’ privacy online, particularly in the mobile space.

The FTC’s Report reinforces this sentiment by encouraging all the major players in the mobile ecosystem—including app developers, ad networks, and trade associations—to increase the transparency of the mobile ecosystem through clear, accessible disclosures about information collection and sharing at appropriate times.

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