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Congress

NTIA Soliciting Input on Privacy Codes of Conduct

February 29, 2012

The Commerce Department said on Wednesday said it will begin seeking comments on what issues should be addressed in the development of voluntary industry codes of conduct aimed at improving consumer privacy.

It's the first step in implementing proposals the Obama administration outlined last week for enhancing consumer privacy online. The administration's plan calls for creating a "privacy bill of rights" for consumers that it would like to see enshrined in legislation. But in the meantime, it also is calling for the creation of voluntary industry codes of conduct based on the principles in its proposed privacy bill of rights.

In a Federal Register notice,Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration suggested that the first round of discussions on the industry codes of conduct could focus on giving people more information about what data mobile application makers and providers are collecting. It's a hot issue right now given reports that some iPhone applications can access users' address books and even their photos.

"A common set of practices that implement the Transparency principle in the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights could provide guidance to mobile apps developers, operating systems, and apps stores, as well as better inform consumers about how mobile apps use personal data," the department said in the notice.

The notice also listed other potential topics for stakeholder discussions including location-based services for mobile applications, accountability, and online services targeted at children and teens.

The department also wants input on how the discussions should be structured to "ensure openness, transparency, and consensus-building." Privacy groups say they want to have a key role in the process.

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