U.S.FTC issues wide-ranging, non-binding guidelines for mobile app developers

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has published a wide-ranging, non-binding set of guidelines for mobile application developers. The FTC’s new publication, Marketing Your Mobile App: Get It Right from the Start, notes that there are general guidelines that all app developers should consider. They include:

• 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. The FTC has free resources to help you develop a security plan appropriate for your business. One place to start: Protecting Personal Information: A Guide for Business.

Source: U.S. Federal Trade Commission


  1. “Statutes like the Graham-Leach-Bliley Act. . . ” OMG! No wonder there is no internet privacy left. The shadow banking system is running our social media too!

    1. TLDR: Non-binding guidelines can gradually shift the standard that will be binding.

      Non-binding guidelines are often a hint at what may become binding regulation in the future. Many businesses adopt the non-bidning guidelines over time to avoid a big shock later. Also, the fact that many adopt the non-binding regulations can then become a factor in the expectations of customers, which strengthens the case for making them binding in the future.

    2. Manifold. Private app stores, such as Apple’s, can choose to adopt these guidelines (effectively making them binding in iOS). It can create a debate about binding mobile app guidelines. These guidelines can be made binding at a later date. It can provide a framework for future guidelines. Apple or other mobile app vendors can make their own binding guidelines based on this. It raises awareness to privacy issues in moble apps. It can serve as a guide for self-regulation.

  2. Guidelines. Non-binding. Obvious stuff. Crooks don’t give a rat’s.

    Where this can be useful is as a stick with which victim customers can hit the abusing company. Point the company to the FTC Guidelines, point out that they are fair and obvious, and ask WTF is wrong with their stupid company.

    Here is the URL to the FTC PDF with which you can clobber the lameass company:

    Marketing Your Mobile App: Get It Right from the Start

    Click to access bus81-marketing-your-mobile-app.pdf

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