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NTIA Unveils Transparency Code for App Developers

Fri, 07/26/2013 - 9:20am
Andrew Berg

This story has been changed to communicate that the code was created by a group of companies, trade associations, and consumer advocacy entities, as a test case and not by the NTIA directly. The NTIA posted a draft of the code online.  

A group comprised of technology companies, consumer advocate groups and trade associations, yesterday released the first draft of a new code for app developers aimed at increasing transparency. The code, which was posted online by the National Telecommnications and Information Adminsitration (NTIA) gives developers guidelines on how best to inform consumers about what information an app collects and how the information is being used. 

App developers and publishers that voluntarily elect to enhance transparency by adopting what the code calls a "short form notice" will include information such as what types of information is being collected; who's the doing the collecting; whether the information is being shared with third-parties; and where a long-form privacy policy can be obtained. 

Specifically, the code calls on developers to identify types of information being collected by category, which are broken down as follows: Biometrics, browser history, phone or text log, contacts, financial information, health or medical information, location, user files. 

The short form notice will also make users aware of which third-parties the app is sharing information with. Those categories are listed as follows: ad networks, carriers, consumer data resellers, data analytics providers, government entities, operating systems and platforms, other apps, social networks. 

The code also offers developers suggestions on the design of the short form notice. 

According to a statement by Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence Strickling the code was informed and developed by a number of entities. Ultimately, the code was the work of a number of app developers, large companies like Apple, Google and Facebook, and trade associations, among others. The code was backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Center for Democracy and Technology. 

“NTIA is pleased that today a diverse group of stakeholders reached a seminal milestone in the efforts to enhance consumer privacy on mobile devices," Strickling said. "We encourage all the companies that participated in the discussion to move forward to test the code with their consumers."

Debbie Matties, CTIA's vice president of privacy, said the association was encouraged by the number of parties that worked on the code but said the guidelines would need further consideration by individual companies. 

“While member companies will need to evaluate the final Code thoroughly, CTIA supports company consideration of the draft Code of Conduct for voluntary adoption and support,” Matties wrote in a statement.

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