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As the ease of using smartphones conceals the complexity and sophistication of their design and capabilities, users need to be protected, said technology analyst Jeff Kagan.
"Today, what smart phones can do has gotten way ahead of what most users understand," he said. "In fact it has gotten way ahead of all laws to protect consumers. That's why the effort of Sen. Schumer may be necessary. If the industry doesn't want to police itself, then it has to be policed."
Schumer's letter was hailed by the Future of Privacy Forum, a public policy advocacy group that aims to find common ground between consumers and business.
"[He] is exactly right in that the platforms need to get this right before consumers start to worry about downloading apps for fear of data theft," said the forum's co-chairman, Jules Polonetsky. "The FTC has already warned app developers that not disclosing key information could be the subject of enforcement action, and the California attorney general has signed an agreement with Google and Apple that is focused on app privacy practices."
Polonetsky was a legislative aide to Schumer from 1992 to 1994.
The senator's letter is the second from Congress to the FTC in a few weeks. Last month, Reps. Edward Markey, D-Mass., Joe Barton, R-Texas, and Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., asked Liebowitz to look into Google's use of a code that reportedly bypasses browser privacy settings for Apple's Safari.