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First Privacy Bill of Rights meeting: Mobile apps targeted

A meeting on mobile applications and data privacy will be held July 12 to start enforcement of President Obama's digital Privacy Bill of Rights.

President Barack Obama walking in front of the White House.
White House

The first in a series of meetings to decide concrete enforcement terms for President Obama's digital "Privacy Bill of Rights" has just been announced for July 12, 2012, and its focus is on mobile apps.

The National Communications and Telecommunication Administration (U.S. Department of Commerce) has decided that it's time to put President Obama's Privacy Bill of Rights into practice.

To begin, they've just invited all "privacy stakeholders" to "generate robust input" for the first consumer data transparency code of conduct.

NTIA has selected mobile app transparency as the focus of the first privacy multi-stakeholder process.

Multi-stakeholders are defined as consumer groups, advertisers, and Internet companies.

"Although other possible topics were suggested and may be pursued in future multi-stakeholder convenings, the mobile app transparency topic presents a strong opportunity for stakeholders to reach consensus on a code of conduct in a reasonable time frame," the NTIA said in its announcement.

The NTIA's first invitation to comment, in March, saw an overwhelming amount of concern about mobile applications because

(...) practices surrounding the disclosure of consumer data privacy practices do not appear to have kept pace with rapid developments in technology and business models.

Perhaps that's in part owing to widespread awareness about Apple's mobile tracking lawsuit, which it has failed to fend off.

The now-famous lawsuit, still in progress, was filed in April, and 18 companies were sued over app privacy including Apple, Facebook, Google, Path, Beluga, Yelp, Burbn, Instagram, Foursquare Labs, (the now-defunct) Gowalla, Foodspotting, Hipster, LinkedIn, Rovio Mobile, ZeptoLab, Chillingo, Electronics Arts, and Kik Interactive.

The lawsuit raised awareness that innocuous seeming apps like Instagram, Foursquare, Foodspotting, and Yelp scrape phones to send names, e-mail addresses and/or phone numbers from users' address books to their servers.

Instagram and Foursquare began to notify users with a permission prompt only after the Path debacle, according to VentureBeat.

A second, similar privacy lawsuit has recently been filed against Apple, Pandora, and The Weather Channel over user location data.

The NTIA multi-stakeholder privacy meeting will decide a code of conduct for app makers and much more: its intent is to create a blueprint for data transparency and also make a clear set of rules for app makers to stay within to remain out of trouble a la privacy lawsuits.

When the Obama administration released its comprehensive blueprint to improve consumers' data privacy protections in February, The White House requested that NTIA ask stakeholders -- companies, privacy advocates, consumer groups, and technology experts -- to develop enforceable codes of conduct to specify how the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights will be applied in specific contexts.

A wide range of multi-stakeholders are invited to contribute. About who this affects, NTIA writes:

The issue of mobile app transparency potentially impacts a range of industry participants, including: developers of mobile apps; providers of sophisticated interactive services for mobile devices (such as those utilizing HTML5 to access mobile APIs); and mobile app platforms, among others.

This is only the first in a series of meetings that will address other areas of consumer data privacy.

The meeting is in Washington, D.C., and NTIA has detailed:

The July 12, 2012, multi-stakeholder meeting will begin at 9:30 a.m and is expected to end no later than 4:30 p.m.

The meeting will be held in the Washington, D.C., metro area; NTIA will announce the venue no later than fifteen (15) days before the meeting, and sooner if possible.

The meeting is open to all interested stakeholders, will be Web cast, and is open to the press.

According to The Hill, The Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) applauds the move and says that growth of the app marketplace will depend on consumers trusting apps with their privacy.

NationalJournal warns

(...) Berin Szoka, president of the think tank TechFreedom, said if the process fails, it could provide an opening for officials seeking more authority to regulate Internet privacy.

This story originally appeared at ZDNet's Pulp Tech.