Can You Hear Me Now? Audio Snooping Triggers FTC Warning to Mobile App Developers
This week, a dozen mobile app developers received warning letters from the FTC concerning audio monitoring software used in their apps, but not clearly disclosed to consumers.
The app developers allegedly used software development kits created by a company called SilverPush. The warning letters explain that SilverPush makes a “Unique Audio Beacon” technology available for app developers, enabling the apps to “listen” for unique codes embedded into television or advertising content to determine what television shows or advertisements are playing nearby. The beacon is configured to access the device’s microphone to collect audio information, even while the app is not actively in use. Using this technology, SilverPush can generate a detailed log of the television or advertising content that the user views for targeted advertising and analytics.
Take Heed: after the FTC warns, enforcement for ignoring such warnings can come later for the same or similar practices. It is a good reminder to assess what consumers data is being collected by the business (and its mobile apps, websites, devices, etc.), and whether those practices are sufficiently disclosed. The more surprising (or personal) the data collection, the more obligation that can mean for the company to effect clear disclosures in a timely manner.