privacy-image

FTC Acts on Privacy as Rogue Apps Proliferate

  |  February 1, 2013   |  Comments

The FTC today said it had fined mobile social network Path $800,000 for violating the Childhood Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

The FTC today said it had fined mobile social network Path $800,000 for violating the Childhood Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Path automatically collected and stored personal information from users' mobile device address books, even if they had not selected the "Add Friends" option, the FTC said.

But blatant privacy violations like this are common, and the problem is getting worse, according to IP Lasso.

In a press conference, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz warned, "Small developers are rushing to get cool apps into the market without including privacy by design."

The FTC said that Path had collected personal information from approximately 3,000 juvenile users of the mobile app. As well, the FTC also alleged that Path's privacy policy deceived consumers by claiming that it automatically collected only certain user information such as IP address, operating system, browser type, address of referring site, and site activity information. In fact, version 2.0 of the Path app for iOS automatically collected and stored personal information from the user's mobile device address book when the user first launched version 2.0 of the app and each time the user signed back into the account.

In a statement on its blog today, Path said, "Early in Path's history, children under the age of 13 were able to sign up for accounts. A very small number of affected accounts have since been closed by Path." The statement did not include any rebuttal to the FTC's complaint that the app had accessed users' address books, even if they had not given permission.

"We see COPPA infringement all the time," Reggie Pierce, CEO of IP Lasso, told ClickZ. "I'm glad that the FTC is aware it's a growing problem. However, we got the sense on the conference call that the FTC is focused on the big guys." IP Lasso provides software that lets brands monitor app platforms for brandjacking, IP infringement, and fraud; Universal Music is a customer.

He pointed out that small developers may offer several apps that individually may have installs in only the tens of thousands. However, these developers may combine collected information from multiple little apps into one big database. "Who is looking out for those apps?" Pierce asked.

IP Lasso recently looked at more than 200 NFL-branded apps and found both licensed and unlicensed apps that required users to grant unnecessary permissions. For example, an unlicensed Baltimore Ravens wallpaper app requires permission to take pictures and video without notifying the user, as well as permission to read information about phone calls and emails, such as frequency of communication.

Pierce acknowledged that small developers may grab boilerplate permissions without the intention of taking advantage of them. The problem, he said, is that no one is monitoring whether or not they do so.

The FTC also released "Mobile App Developers: Start with Security," a guide that encourages developers to aim for "reasonable data security." It suggests designating one person to be in charge of security, and warns against relying on the mobile app platform to handle privacy.

Tags:

ClickZ Live San Francisco This Year's Premier Digital Marketing Event is #CZLSF
ClickZ Live San Francisco (Aug 11-14) brings together the industry's leading practitioners and marketing strategists to deliver 4 days of educational sessions and training workshops. From Data-Driven Marketing to Social, Mobile, Display, Search and Email, this year's comprehensive agenda will help you maximize your marketing efforts and ROI. Register today!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Susan Kuchinskas

Susan Kuchinskas has covered interactive advertising since its invention. The former staff writer for Adweek, Business 2.0, and M-Business covers technology, business and culture from Berkeley, CA.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

ClickZ Today is our #1 newsletter. Get a daily dose of digital marketing.

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

Featured White Papers

BigDoor: The Marketers Guide to Customer Loyalty

The Marketer's Guide to Customer Loyalty
Customer loyalty is imperative to success, but fostering and maintaining loyalty takes a lot of work. This guide is here to help marketers build, execute, and maintain a successful loyalty initiative.

Marin Software: The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising

The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising
Latest research reveals 68% higher revenue per conversion for marketers who integrate their search & social advertising. In addition to the research results, this whitepaper also outlines 5 strategies and 15 tactics you can use to better integrate your search and social campaigns.

WEBINARS

    Information currently unavailable

Jobs

    • Interactive Product Manager
      Interactive Product Manager (Western Governors University) - Salt Lake CityWestern Governors University, one of the 20 largest universities...
    • SEO Senior Analyst
      SEO Senior Analyst (University of Phoenix (Apollo Education Group)) - San FranciscoSEO Senior Analyst   Position Summary...
    • SEM & Biddable Media Manager
      SEM & Biddable Media Manager (Kepler Group LLC) - New YorkAs an Optimization & Innovation Manager at Kepler Group, you will be on the bleeding...