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App Developers Being Warned Over Use of Silverfish

The Federal Trade Commission building.

App developers are being warned about software which could create privacy concerns for device users.

ftcSilverfish is a software meant to monitor consumers’ television use through the use of “audio beacons” emitted by TVs, which consumers can’t hear but can be detected by the software, explained the Federal Trade Commission. The commission has sent a letter to developers warning them of the software noting it could produce a detailed log of the television content viewed while a user’s mobile device was turned on for the purpose of targeted advertising and analytics.

“Upon downloading and installing your mobile application that embeds Silverpush, we received no disclosures about the included audio beacon functionality — either contextually as part of the setup flow, in a dedicated standalone privacy policy, or anywhere else,” states the letter.

Silverpush has stated publicly its service is not currently in use in the United States, but it encourages app developers to notify consumers that their app could allow third parties to monitor consumers’ television viewing habits should the software begin to be used in the United States.

“These apps were capable of listening in the background and collecting information about consumers without notifying them,” Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, stated in a press release. “Companies should tell people what information is collected, how it is collected, and who it’s shared with.”

App developers are informed, via the letter, if their statements or user interface state or imply the apps in question are not collecting and transmitting television viewing data when in fact they do, that the app developers could be in violation of Section 5 of the FTC Act. The FTC provided guidance in a 2013 staff report on best practices for privacy disclosures in mobile apps.

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W. Brice McVicar

W. Brice McVicar is a staff writer for SiteProNews.