Focus on Mobile App Transparency

Pursuant to the Obama Administration’s blueprint for consumer privacy released in February (and in accord with a request for comments published in March), the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has issued a notice setting July 12, 2012, as the date for the first meeting in its privacy multistakeholder process. Mobile app transparency will be the focus of the first meeting.

The process “will encourage stakeholders to develop a code of conduct that promotes transparent disclosures to consumers concerning mobile apps’ treatment of personal data,” according to the notice. “A code of conduct would give mobile app-related businesses greater certainty about how the Privacy Blueprint’s transparency principle applies to them. A code of conduct might address how best to convey data practices to consumers who download mobile apps and use interactive mobile services.”

With the ongoing shift to the mobile web and the related need to crunch content to fit available space, there is heightened regulatory interest in the scope of consumer disclosures. For example, last fall the FTC took a mobile apps developer to task for default settings that resulted in sharing when the application interface (in the FTC’s view) suggested otherwise.

The multishakeholder meeting will take place in Washington, D.C., (exact location to be announced) beginning at 9:30 a.m., and will be webcast. The NTIA has asked those interested in attending in person or by viewing the webcast to indicate their interest in advance so it can scale the space and web service to match the interest. The meeting notice serves up a reminder that the stakeholder groups will not serve as advisory committees and that the NTIA is not seeking “consensus advice or recommendations on policy issues from participants in the privacy multistakeholder process.” That stance isn’t dampening interest.  Some 80+ parties filed responses to the request for comments, so it seems reasonable to expect robust participation at the July 12th meeting.