Federal regulators clamp down on mobile firms

Two federal regulatory agencies have levied stiff penalties on two firms for infractions in the mobility space.

In one case, the Federal Communications Commission fined Dialing Services $2.9 million for making robocalls on behalf of political candidates to mobile phones.

The FCC said it had previously cited Dialing Services for making more than 4.7 million robocalls to mobile phones without consumer permission during the 2012 election cycle. After receiving that citation, the company continued to make robocalls.

"Robocalling cell phones without a consumer's consent is not only annoying, it is unlawful. The FCC is committed to protecting consumers from harassing, intrusive, and unwanted robocalls to cell phones, smart phones, and other mobile devices," says Travis LeBlanc, acting chief of the agency's Enforcement Bureau.

In a separate action, the Federal Trade Commission is requiring mobile messaging app developer Snapchat to implement a privacy program that will be monitored by an outside privacy expert for the next 20 years. Snapchat agreed to the monitoring as part of a settlement with the FTC.

The agency accused Snapchat of deception by promising that customers could control how long their messages were viewed by recipients. Yet the FTC found that "several methods exist by which a recipient can use tools outside of the application to save both photo and video messages, allowing the recipient to access and view the photos or videos indefinitely."

In addition, the FTC also alleged that Snapchat deceived customers about the amount of personal data it collected and retained and the security measures it took to protect that data. For example, Snapchat said in its privacy policy that it did not collect or transmit geolocation information. In actuality, it did transmit such data for users of its Android app.

In addition, the FTC says that Snapchat failed to secure its Find Friends feature, which resulted in the data breach that enabled attackers to steal usernames and phone numbers of 4.6 million Snapchat customers.

In a blog post, Snapchat admitted that in creating its mobile messaging app "some things didn't get the attention they could have. One of those was being more precise with how we communicated with Snapchat communication."  

Snapchat said that it had "resolved most of those concerns over the past year by improving the wording of our privacy policy, app description, and in-app just-in-time notifications. And we continue to invest heavily in security and countermeasures to prevent abuse."

For more:
- check out the FCC release and notice
- see the FTC release and complaint
- read the Snapchat blog

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