Center for Democracy and Technology and the Future of Privacy Forum Weigh In on Senate Privacy Debates

Thursday, the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) and the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) jointly weighed in on Senate hearings about “Consumer Privacy and Protection in the Mobile Marketplace.”

The hearings, which center on the amount of personal information software applications (or “apps,” as they’ve come to be known) on mobile devices send back to their designers.

CDT is a public interest organization dedicated to “keeping the Internet open” and FPF is DC-based think tank advocating “responsible data practices.”

“Any data collection practices can pose privacy issues, especially when the user is not aware of or has not consented to the collection,” CDT and FPF said in a press release. “For users of mobile devices, a recent survey shows that privacy is their number one concern.”

CDT and FPF have drawn up a set of principles they believe should govern app development. These are:

1. Privacy Policy. Every app should have a written Privacy Policy explaining to users, in plain language, what data is collected, how it is used, how it will be displayed, shared, or transferred, and how long it will be retained. If data is collected, even incidentally, for the financial benefit of the app developer, e.g. for advertising, this should be disclosed. The Privacy Policy should be readily accessible. At a minimum, a link to the Privacy Policy should be provided prominently on the app itself and the contents of the Privacy Policy should be easy for the user to read and understand. Consideration should be given to layered privacy notices that summarize and link to the more detailed contents of a Privacy Policy. Other means of summarizing privacy practices, such as symbols or icons, should also be considered.

2. Meaningful User Choice. Users should be provided meaningful choices about the collection, disclosure, and use of the personal or device information. These choices should be explained in the Privacy Policy, but also presented “just-in-time” to users, when data is about to be collected.

3. Data Minimization and Limited Retention. Developers should only collect as much data as is necessary to perform the functions of the app and only retain this data for as long as it is needed, unless the user clearly has consented to greater collection and retention.

4. Appropriate Data Security. Developers should employ all reasonable physical, technical and administrative methods to protect the integrity and security of collected data.

5. Education. Developers should educate users about the types of data an app collects, and ways they can protect their privacy using the app. Developers should educate themselves about the laws they are subject to and take note of possible obligations under COPPA, as well as self regulatory initiatives such as those proposed by CTIA, MMA and the GSMA.

6. Privacy by Design. Developers should think about privacy from the beginning of the app development process. Developers should consider what personal or device data is needed for app functionality and design the app to collect only what is needed, share it only with those needed to perform the functions of the app, and retain it only for as long as is necessary, and only after proper notice and choice for the user has been provided. This also means ensuring that needed physical, technical and administrative protections are in place for the data collected, and that accountability principles are employed to ensure that data is handled properly, including regular auditing and training of employees and contractors.

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