Is Design The New Theater of Privacy War?

Jessica Payne

On Friday, the FTC released a Mobile Privacy Disclosures report, filled with data highlighting consumer privacy concerns and guidelines for mobile app developers going forward.

Disclosure and design are focal points for a new set of guidelines the FTC says app and software developers must adopt to build trust among a growing population of tablet and smartphone users in the US.

According to the MPD report:

  • 57 percent of all app users have either uninstalled an app over concerns about having to share their personal information, or declined to install an app…for similar reasons.
  • Less than one-third of Americans feel they are in control of their personal information on their mobile devices.

The report outlines recommendations for mobile platforms and app developers. Among self-regulation, education and collaboration, they also suggest offering a Do Not Track (DNT) mechanism to “allow consumers to choose to prevent tracking by ad networks or other third parties as they navigate among apps on their phones.”

But wait, isn’t too much disclosure bad for business?

According to a recent Gigya consumer survey, consumer comfort jumps from 37 to 49 percent when sites add a “short, clear message” explaining how data is collected. Seems like a pretty simple solution to earning the kind of trust business are looking for.

App developers must know when and where such notices appear. According to the FTC, timing is everything. Also on Friday, the FTC settled a lawsuit with Path over charges that the social network improperly collected user data. Turns out bad timing in the design – not privacy policy misrepresentation – was the major infraction and one that cost the app company $800,000 and 20 years of auditing going forward.

App developers should take note of the repercussions from the Path settlement and use the FTC guidelines to ensure they incorporate privacy disclosure into the physical design of the app – not just pasted on a wall or accessible at will but placed during the proper times during the user experience. The consumers will trust them better for it.

More information about understanding mobile apps and best-practices can be found on the FTC Website:


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