When the revised COPPA rule was released in late 2012, developers had to ask themselves a question: ‘Is my site or app directed to children under the age of 13?’
Anyone with a child-directed service has probably taken a hard look at their data practices over the last few months, followed by technical modifications to your product, the creation of additional features, plenty of white board sessions, and maybe a few more product tweaks when the FTC releases further clarification in the form of an FAQ.
By looking at a couple examples, we’ll see the same underlying problem: privacy policies just aren’t very helpful as they’re currently written.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has developed a voluntary, draft code of conduct for mobile app disclosures. The idea is to create something akin to nutritional labels for the data practices of mobile apps - they’re short, easy to understand, and standardized.
This is the right long-term approach, but I suspect that until such disclosures are required by law, it will be an uphill battle to convince attorneys to cull the boilerplate that makes privacy policies so bloated in the first place.
The Auto Loan Servicer:
The first: it’s opt-out regime. By default the company could share all my information. If I wanted to opt out, I could call a toll free number. So I did, and 20 minutes later, I had opted out of the sale of my data to other interested parties.
I bought a small pickup truck – the small pickup I had always wanted – about eight months ago. It’s reliable, perfect for the tasks I use it for, and the gas mileage is even better than expected. I love it.
It seems strange that a company who’s so careful about their brand would let their information collection practices tarnish it.
Creating Value from Privacy:
I’m not advocating for needless revisions to privacy policies and I certainly don’t think you need to pay a lawyer thousands of dollars to write one, but I do believe that businesses should begin to think about data collection, use and disclosure practices in the same way they view other business functions.
There is a market for privacy, and I suspect, a large opportunity for businesses to address this market and create value.
With a varied past as an Outward Bound sailing instructor, elementary school teacher and non-profit administrator, Matt does a little bit of everything at Famigo, an Austin-based startup that builds technology to protect kids and families on mobile devices. A native of Scranton, PA, Matt holds a B.A. in Philosophy from Colgate University, an MBA from the College of Charleston, and is currently taking a leave of absence from the University of Texas School of Law. Follow Matt on Twitter @mmmcdonnell
Edited by Ryan Sartor