The FTC recently released their report, “Beyond Voice: Mapping the Mobile Marketplace,” as a follow-up to the FTC’s May 2008 public town hall meeting which explored new developments associated with mobile devices and their impact on mobile commerce. One of the main concerns of the new report is how the ability of “smartphones” and other mobile devices to access the web presents a unique challenge to protecting children’s privacy.
The panelists also highlighted industry guidelines and industry best practices they believed helped protect children’s privacy, such as requiring a “double opt-in” when registering for certain texting services and avoiding use of the word “free” in children’s campaigns when standard rates and other charges apply. Several panelists, however, questioned whether industry guidelines and best practices went far enough to protect children. They stated that current disclosures may not indicate how a child’s mobile phone number will be used or whether it will be provided to third parties, and that more controls should be placed on general audience advertising that is likely to appeal to significant numbers of children. The panel did, however, conclude that a complete ban on child-directed mobile advertising was not warranted. We expect there will be additional informational gathering by the FTC, as well as opportunities for comment regarding any proposed changes to COPPA’s rules.