Johnson Introduces App Privacy Bill

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) has introduced his bill that requires apps that collect data to get the consumers' consent before doing so.

The goal of the bill, the Application Privacy, Protection and Security (APPS) Act of 2013 (H.R. 1913), is to provide for more transparency, user control and security for user data collected by mobile applications. It requires clear notice of the terms of use, including any sharing of that data with third parties, and affirmative consent of the users, as well as a mechanism for withdrawing that consent that will stop the data collection.

The Federal Trade Commission would be authorized to enforce violations of the Act as unfair and deceptive practices.

There would be a safe harbor for app developers who agree to abide by a voluntary code of conduct if terms of use are eventually produced through a multistakeholder process that convened earlier this year by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration in an effort to flesh out the Administration's privacy bill of rights. The bill would also require that app developers adhere to privacy policies and protect any data they are allowed to collect.

Johnson has been collecting input on online mobile privacy via a web-based initiative, "The overwhelming majority of participants who helped build the legislation - more than 80 percent - confirmed that Congress should protect consumers' privacy on mobile devices," he said in a statement. "These engaged citizens also wanted simple controls over privacy on devices, security to prevent data breaches and notice and information about data collection on the device. The APPS Act answers the call."

Johnson circulated a draft of the bill back in January.

The FTC would be authorized to establish via regulation the format, manner and timing of the notice.

"This bill is a common-sense approach to an urgent problem - millions of consumers are using mobile applications for a host of activities, some very personal, and yet they lack basic rights with respect to the data that may be collected about them," said Consumer Federation of America director of consumer protection Susan Grant in a statement Johnson's office attached to the announcement of the bill.

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.