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FTC Unveils Mobile App Marketing Guide

  |  September 6, 2012   |  Comments

One app marketer suggests developers may be more concerned with Apple's guidelines than with the Federal Trade Commission's.

"Marketing Your Mobile App" guidelines focus on adopting the Federal Trade Commission's truth-in-advertising standards and privacy principles for the new arena of mobile app development.

The 11 rule guidebook, available on the FTC website, encompasses general rules "like tell the truth about what your app can do" and "respect your privacy policies." Issues that have hit the news cycle in the past year such as protecting kids' privacy and building privacy considerations early are also overviewed in the six page book of rules.

The guidelines spell out company requirements for dealing with consumer data. However, guiding principles like "collect sensitive consumer information only with consent" and "keep user data secure" may be easier said then done for some companies.

Matthew Palmer, CEO of Marketing Your App, told Clickz the real issues will arise when mobile app developers dig into the details. "With things changing so quickly in mobile marketing, it's good to have these FTC rules in writing but they seem so general, the devil will be in the details," he said. Palmer, whose company helps developers promote apps, says the real issues could arise when it comes to companies that want to turn a profit on mobile applications.

"In general, I don't think it's hard for developers to follow these rules, and the ones I've worked with understand it's best to start that relationship with your customer being upfront and honest," said Palmer. "It does get harder when you try to make money from your app, such as the trade off between having a free app and collecting data for advertisers."

Facebook recently settled a case with the FTC in which the social networking giant was accused of sharing user IDs with advertisers without consent. This year has also been a big one for data breaches as companies like LinkedIn suffered from not having its data properly secured.

Palmer was quick to point out that developers are more worried about Apple's app policies than the FTC's. "The developers I've worked with to promote their apps have mainly been concerned with Apple's rules, some of which seem similar - be truthful in describing your app, respect user privacy, etc.," continued Palmer. "They know that breaking these rules will get them rejected from the App Store. So I think that's on the top of the minds of many developers more than the FTC."

Apple's App Store guidelines do share some similarities with the FTC's new conduct rules. The privacy section for iOS developers requires user consent for data collection and calls for all apps to function without the need for sensitive user data.

In the end, both Palmer and the FTC agree that truthful advertising and strong privacy policies not only help companies follow the rules, but also build customer trust.

"Satisfied users may be your best form of marketing. Breaking into the business with an app that delivers on its promises is key to [a company's] long-term success," the FTC wrote.



James is a freelance writer and editor. In addition to ClickZ, his work has appeared in publications like V3, The Commonwealth Club, CachedTech.com, and Shonen Jump magazine. He studied Journalism at Weber State University.

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