Privacy Discussion at State of the Mobile Net Conference

By TAP Staff Blogger

Posted on May 15, 2012

On May 4, 2012, the Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee (ICAC) hosted the 4th Annual State of the Mobile Net Conference in Washington, D.C. The conference featured policy experts and scholars discussing the most pertinent issues impacting the mobile net.

The half-day conference began with a panel on mobile privacy entitled, Complex Devices/Complex Privacy Questions: Grappling with Privacy in the Mobile Space, moderated by ICAC Executive Director Tim Lordan. The panel featured Sarah Hudgins, Public Policy Director at Interactive Advertising Bureau, Todd Moore, Founder of TMSOFT, Patricia Poss, Chief of Bureau of Consumer Protection Mobile Technology Unit of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Ashkan Soltani, an independent researcher and consultant.

Privacy is difficult to define, especially in regard to the mobile space which is constantly evolving. In an attempt to tackle the challenging topic, Lordan facilitated the conversation on what privacy is, what mobile users should know about the information that is being collected and who is responsible for protecting user privacy.

Overall, the panelists agreed that consumers and mobile app users currently do not receive enough information about how their personal information is being used. However, there was debate throughout on who should be held responsible for protecting privacy for the mobile app users. Soltani suggested the developer of the mobile app should have the bulk of responsibility and that there should be a standard set of policies for privacy practices. However, Moore discussed that too much responsibility is being put on developers when app platforms for iPhones and Androids can put privacy measures into place. Hudgins argued that there is a shared responsibility: the consumers must be educated on how and what information is being collected, and the developers have the responsibility to protect their privacy on the mobile apps. 

Consumers are becoming more and more savvy, according to Hudgins. They are reviewing their privacy settings and choosing not to activate them. However, Poss noted that there is little information available for consumers about mobile privacy. If a user doesn’t know what to look or ask for, it is hard to find. Poss also noted that it is important not to forget that a large aspect of mobile privacy includes the invisible collection of personal data that the consumers cannot see.

To learn more about the discussions on these mobile issues, and view the video of this privacy panel, go to the conference agenda page.