Mobile app developers have some unique challenges when it comes to preparation and implementation of privacy policies.   But, regulators have made it quite clear that the general privacy laws and regulations apply whether the application is online or mobile.  To refresh your memory, see our Mintz Client Alert (here) regarding the California AG’s agreement with mobile app platforms regarding developer privacy policies.

Today, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published a “guide” for mobile app developers, emphasizing that they too must comply with the same truth-in-advertising standards and basic privacy principles as everyone else.   The launch of “Marketing Your Mobile App: Get it Right from the Start” is another in a recent line of FTC public statements and workshops on mobile privacy.

The FTC’s announcement also listed “helpful hints” as to what mobile app developers must take into consideration before launching that “killer app”:

  • Tell the Truth About What Your App Can Do. – “Whether it’s what you say on a website, in an app store, or within the app itself,  you have to tell the truth,” the publication advises;
  • Disclose Key Information Clearly and Conspicuously. – “If you need to disclose information to make what you say accurate, your disclosures have to be clear and conspicuous.”
  • Build Privacy Considerations in From the Start. – Incorporate privacy protections into your practices, limit the information you collect, securely store what you hold on to, and safely dispose of what you no longer need.   “For any collection or sharing of information that’s not apparent, get users’ express agreement.  That way your customers aren’t unwittingly disclosing information they didn’t mean to share.”
  • Offer Choices that are Easy to Find and Easy to Use. – “Make it easy for people to find the tools you offer, design them so they’re simple to use, and follow through by honoring the choices users have made.”
  • Honor Your Privacy Promises. – “Chances are you make assurances to users about the security standards you apply or what you do with their personal information.  App developers – like all other marketers – have to live up to those promises.”
  • Protect Kids’ Privacy. – “If your app is designed for children or if you know that you are collecting personal information from kids, you may have additional requirements under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.”
  • Collect Sensitive Information Only with Consent. – Even when you’re not dealing with kids’ information, it’s important to get users’ affirmative OK before you collect any sensitive data from them, like medical, financial, or precise geolocation information.
  • Keep User Data Secure. – Statutes like the Graham-Leach-Bliley Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and the Federal Trade Commission Act may require you to provide reasonable security for sensitive information.