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Congress

Mobile Apps Top Commerce Department's Privacy Agenda

June 15, 2012

The Obama administration's push for an online privacy bill of rights will begin in July with a meeting to consider privacy for mobile apps, the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced on Friday.

The "multi-stakeholder" meeting will include representatives of companies, consumer advocacy groups, and others. The topic for the July 12th meeting was decided after receiving input from the various organizations.

"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 meeting is part of the White House's effort to give consumers more control over how their personal data is collected and used online. In February the Commerce Department released a privacy report that called for action regardless of whether Congress decides to move forward with privacy protections of its own.

The administration will begin with a series of meetings with Internet industry representatives, consumer advocates, and others to develop sector-specific voluntary codes of conduct based on the proposed privacy bill of rights. While company participation in the codes are voluntary, firms that agree to sign on to them will be subject to enforcement by the Federal Trade Commission.

Industry groups praised NTIA's decision to focus on app privacy issues, but divisions remain over how the multistakeholder process will be handled.

At a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event on Friday, the Interactive Advertising Bureau's Sarah Hudgins called on the NTIA to make sure that the process takes into account existing codes of conduct. Advertisers and other Web companies that rely on ads have pushed to be allowed to self-regulate how they use the consumer data they collect.

And 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.

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