Consumer Groups to Get Industry Briefings on Mobile Apps

Argue they need briefing before they can talk about substance of privacy-protection regime

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.