SilverPush Code Warning Letters Issued

The FTC has issued warning letters to several app developers on the Google Play market who installed a piece of software, known as SilverPush, that secretly snoops on the ads you’re watching by monitoring a mobile device’s microphone to listen for audio signals that are embedded in television advertisements. 

The software is designed to monitor consumers’ television use through the use of “audio beacons” emitted by televisions, which consumers can’t hear but can be detected by the software. The software would be capable of producing a detailed log of the TV content viewed while a user’s mobile device was turned on for the purpose of targeted advertising and analytics. 

So if you're watching a TV show or an online video about cooking, and an ad comes on for kitchenware with an embedded ultrasonic signal, apps using SilverPush on your nearby phone will hear it, realize you're into cookery, and provide this data to ad networks.

The software has been criticized as spyware because SilverPush can operate without user knowledge and can be installed and activated without user consent or permission.

The FTC said that it knows of 12 developers who are currently offering software for Android devices and all were issued warning letters.

While SilverPush "enhanced" ads are not yet being used in the US, the letters warn the app developers that if their statements or user interface state or imply that the apps are not collecting and transmitting television viewing data when they do, the app developers could be in violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act and subject to prosecution, including injunctions and fines.

Takeaway:  Companies should keep the FTC’s principles of Privacy by Design when developing and implementing new technology. This also includes being transparent with consumers in terms of data collection and sharing practices.

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