Why is the FCC Smacking Apple, Google?

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has released a set of privacy recommendations for app stores, such as those run by Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG). A few of the recommendations are also targeted at app developers and online advertising networks.

The agency said it “strongly encourages” companies to adopt the guidelines, though they remain non-binding. However, companies may still face action if they don’t do a better job of protecting the privacy of mobile device users, FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz said, according to Bloomberg. If some companies “don’t wake up and do the right thing, my sense is that industry is far more likely to face much more prescriptive laws down the road,” Leibowitz said on a media conference call. “I don’t think that’s going to be very far down the road because privacy is the quintessential bipartisan issue in Congress.”

Through the guidelines, the FTC wants mobile platforms to create a Do Not Track system. Apple’s recently launched a Limit Ad Tracking feature for iOS. The FTC also wants mobile platforms owners to ask before accessing a user’s location, contacts, photos, calendar, or recording sound or video as well as develop an icon that will show users every time personal data is being transmitted.

“The mobile world is expanding and innovating at breathtaking speed, allowing consumers to do things that would have been hard to imagine only a few years ago,” Leibowitz said in a statement. “These best practices will help to safeguard consumer privacy and build trust in the mobile marketplace, ensuring that the market can continue to thrive.”

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According to the FTC, 57 percent of app users either didn’t install or uninstalled an app because they didn’t want to share their personal information, and that “less than one third of Americans” believe they have control over personal information stored on mobile devices.

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