Consumer Groups to Get Industry Briefings on Mobile Apps


Consumer advocates said Wednesday that industry players, including online advertisers Apple, Google and Microsoft, have agreed to brief them on the state of the art in mobile apps.

That came in a sometimes contentious NTIA-hosted meeting on mobile app privacy, the second in a series of meetings proposed by the Obama administration as a way to come up with a regime for implementing its online privacy bill of rights.

That meeting began with the goal of dealing with substantive elements of mobile app privacy, but when consumer groups threatened to walk out, saying they would rather have those mobile app briefings before dealing with substance, NITA agreed to talk about process issues first, which was all the meeting focused on.

Those consumer groups, including Consumer Federation of America and Center for Digital Democracy, are concerned that a host of mobile app issues not be left off the table, and argue that before they can start identifying the issues that need to be addressed in the codes of conduct, that they have a better handle on what those are.

CDD's Jeff Chester suggested that there were a host of mobile app privacy issues -- many he said were troubling ones -- that needed to be summarized and articulated. He said industry briefings should be scheduled ASAP, then that info vetted and debated before industry stakeholders negotiate a way forward.

Another NTIA-hosted meeting is scheduled for Aug. 29, although CFA's Susan Grant said she was not sure briefings could be scheduled between now and then. Grant started off the meeting by saying that she and others would walk out if the discussion started with substance rather than process. She and others had said at the first meeting back in July that putting substance before process was putting the cart before the horse and they needed to understand mobile app data flows before talking about substance and transparency. She said Wednesday that between that meeting and this, there had been talks that resulted in the promised briefings.

Among the process issues discussed at Wednesday's were defining what a mobile app is before talking about what its privacy policies should be, and whether the series of NTIA-hosted meetings stretching through the end of the year should include ones outside of Washington, be held later in the day -- Wednesday's meeting began at 9:30 a.m. ET -- for West Coasters, and whether they should be moved from Wednesdays, since they now conflict with another series of privacy meetings on do-not-track.

An NTIA official said the agency would be happy to change any of the meeting dates to accommodate the participants. He also said he hoped the Aug. 29 meeting would include substance and process.