CDD Slams Process That Produced Mobile App Transparency Guidelines

The Center for Digital Democracy takes aim at the Obama Administration's multistakeholder model of privacy enforcement in a new report, "Head in the Digital Sand," criticizing the process that produced the recent draft on mobile app transparency.

CDD, which participated in that process but abstained from the resulting guidelines, says the process was flawed from the start. According to the report - -essentially CDD's view of where the process broke down and how it should be reformed -- the National Telecommunications & Information Administration-led effort "failed on all counts" to examine what data was collected by apps, interactive marketing techniques used, their relationship to cross-platform marketing, and the impact on sensitive personal data.

"Dominated by industry lobbyists," says the report, "the Administration’s reliance on the stakeholder process to deliver meaningful safeguards to consumers is ill conceived. A disjointed, piecemeal, and uninformed initiative to protect the digital privacy of Americans is simply unacceptable. The Administration’s stakeholder framework to protect privacy is in need of serious reform."

CDD says that rather than replace it with lobbyist-driven "convenings," the Administration should release proposed privacy legislation. CDD also wants NTIA replaced by the Federal Trade Commission if the Administration wants to continue the stakeholder meetings. CDD calls the FTC better equipped to be a "fair and well-informed" facilitator.

CDD's report also outlines the findings of its own inquiry into app practices and some of the issues it says NTIA should have addressed but didn't. Those include mobile app monetizing practices, new user acquisition, the impact of mobile measurement on privacy, and real-time surveillance.

The report comes on the eve of Thursday's planned "lessons learned" meeting among the stakeholders who came up with the app guidelines.

NTIA had no comment, but referred to its statement for Multichannel News' cover story last week, which reported DCC was preparing the report: "A diverse group of stakeholders embraced the process, including leading consumer groups and key representatives of app developers," the spokesperson said. "The process involved true give and take, and stakeholders came together to find common ground on important issues. The vast majority of stakeholders agree that it is time to put down the drafting pen and start reviewing, testing and implementing a code of conduct. We believe this process will result in enhanced short-form privacy disclosures that will benefit consumers. While we support the multi-stakeholder process, the administration also continues to support a baseline privacy law."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.