Studies estimate that an average person spends 20 hours per week online, or 2.8 hours daily. This number increases dramatically when it comes to millennials and the iGeneration who, as social natives, can spend upwards of 15 hours per day online between work, school and recreation. The prevalence of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, have only come to encourage more time online, with many traditionally “offline” activities transitioning to the online environment like reading books and newspapers, paying bills, balancing your checkbook, and even listening to music and watching movies.
Recognizing the online behavioral shift, an ever growing number of businesses have capitalized on this phenomenon and developed a variety of products and services specifically targeted to this market segment. At the top of this list are mobile apps which are developed and created at an astounding rate, whether it be to address a perceived need, or for entertainment purposes. Mobile devices have even managed to change the way we pay for goods and services. Electronic payment systems, like digital wallets and Apple Pay have made it possible to pay or transfer funds without the use of cash, checks and debit and credit cards. Many companies have also implemented effective mobile marketing strategies that not only allows businesses to monitor consumer spending, but also consumer behavior.
Different mobile apps, media and tools have proven to be an effective method for developing and growing businesses. However, with such impressive gains also come concern about consumer privacy, safety and security.
Although consumers have become progressively comfortable with online activities and managing an online presence, there is still significant concern with regard to privacy and security. To this end, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) continues its focus and scrutiny of mobile industry practices and seeks to educate both developers and consumers in the proper ways of conducting business online.
In recent cases, the FTC reiterated the importance of clearly identifying advertisements and paid endorsements done through native advertising, as well as properly obtaining authorization to install mobile software. In March 2016, the FTC settled with Lord & Taylor, a New York based department store, for charges it misinformed consumers through the use of native advertisements, including a seemingly objective article published on an online publication and Instagram posts without proper disclosure that said posts were paid adverts.
Additionally, in February 2016, the FTC settled with Vulcun, a technology company for charges that include “unfairly replacing a web browser game with a program that installed applications on consumers’ mobile devices without proper permission.” The FTC stated that Vulcun misled consumers because its actions differed from its disclosures to consumers, and further risked consumer privacy by deceptively installing software that would bypass the Android permission process and allow Vulcun to install additional potentially malicious software freely on consumer devices without their knowledge.
In 2016 we can expect the FTC to follow businesses in their conversion to the mobile environment. The increasingly stringent regulatory climate in the mobile platform makes it even more imperative for mobile app developers and businesses with an online and mobile presence to have the proper procedures, disclosures and legal advisors in place to safeguard their ventures. Disclosures that clearly, sufficiently and legally communicate a company or developer’s plan of action as it relates to mobile apps, devices, data collection and consumer tracking is key. Designing safeguards into your mobile app or mobile strategy is essential to success. So, how much time do you spend online daily? For many of us, the honest answer might just be “too much.”