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FTC Offers Mobile Advertising and Privacy Guidance

Posted on 10.15.2012

Mobile ads are the next big thing for the advertising industry, so did you really think that the FTC wasn’t going to get involved sooner or later?

In early 2012, the group was looking into updating its online advertising guidelines to adapt them to new digital marketing avenues, particularly social and mobile, but that won’t be completed for a few more months. Right now, there are already tons of applications on mobile devices across the country, which prompted the Commission to released new guidelines for app developers known as “Marketing Your Mobile App: Getting It Right from the Start.”

The guide, which is intended for an audience that is largely unfamiliar with FTC compliance guidelines, primarily gives advice about “truthful advertising” and privacy issues.

For starters, it tells developers to make sure that their advertising tells “the truth about what” their app is able to do, whether it’s on a website, in an apps store or even within the application. It even offers up a handy rule of thumb, that if they don’t have “solid proof” to back up the objective claims of their app’s capabilities, they probably shouldn’t bother advertising them. It also advises them to disclose any key information “clearly and conspicuously,” meaning that it is big and clear enough that user’s can easily see it and understand what it is saying.

In terms of privacy, the FTC suggests that developers build in privacy considerations from the start of the project, which means limiting the information they collect, securely storing what they acquire and safely disposing of what they don’t need. Additionally, the organization insists that these developers are transparent with users about their data collection and sharing practices, and that they offer privacy choices (e.g. privacy settings, opt-outs or other ways that users can control their personal information) that are easy to find and use.

As with advertising content, the guidelines encourage developers to honor their privacy promises and keep user data secure. It says they should collect only the data they need, secure it by taking “reasonable precautions” against known security risks, limit its access to a “need-to-know basis” and safely dispose of what they do not need. Finally, it recommends that they only collect “sensitive information” (i.e. medical, financial, location, etc.) with user consent, and that they are especially careful when collecting data from children (under 13) and require parental consent when doing so.

If you’re interested in reading the full report, you can check out a PDF version by clicking here. And don’t forget to be on the lookout for the updated mobile advertising guidelines by the end of the year.

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