A couple of Android Developers have been warned by the Federal Trade Commission or FTC recently for using the controversial SilverPush code. The usage of the said code might lead to a violation of consumer rights, says the FTC. Last week, it has come out that the FTC has sent the warning letters after being found out of using the said code.
SilverPush is a software that is able to turn on an Android device’s mic and pick up background sounds to better target advertiser. This functionality, according to Information week, can run silently in the background even if the user is not actively using the said application. Using this tech, the controversial software could generate a detailed log of the television content that was viewed while the device was turned on.
The said warning letters, according to the FTC’s official press release, has also noted that the software has declared publicly that its service is not yet in the United States. However, it does encourage Android Developers to notify users that their app could allow third parties to monitor their television viewing habits should the software starts operating in the US.
FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Jessica Rich also said that the apps can listen in the background and collect information about the consumers without informing them. Rich also said that the “companies should tell people what information is collected, how it is collected, and who it’s shared with.” The warning letters also say that the developer should also ask for permission to use the device’s mic even if the app doesn’t appear to need them.
It is also noted that the apps in question doesn’t state anywhere the capability to monitor TV viewing habits even if the apps are not in use. With that said, the developers are warned that “if their statements or user interface state or imply that the apps in question are not collecting and transmitting” TV viewing data even if they do; the developers might be violating Section 5 of the FTC Act. “The FTC provided guidance in a 2013 staff report on best practices for privacy disclosures in mobile apps.”
Digital Trends notes that even if the FTC has sent warning letters to 12 Android developers, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t cover all developers adding SilverPush into their apps. According to their report, it could be recalled that last November “Addons Detector” has shared their analysis which found 27 apps in Google Play Store with a software development kit of the controversial software. Out of those 27, 11 are now out of the Play Store which left 16 live apps with the said software.
Meanwhile, Tech Times adds that for some time now, “Privacy advocates” has been pushing for FTC to make sure that the transparency of cross device trackers live the controversial software to users. They are also asking that the information gathered by such software are collected to be used for ethical purposes. The same report said that it isn’t sure whether some iOS apps were also using the said software as FTC only mentioned Android app developers.
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