FTC warns app developers against using audio monitoring software

A dozen developers appear to have packaged TV tracking software into their products, the agency says

 The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has sent warning letters to 12 smartphone app developers for allegedly compromising users' privacy by packaging audio monitoring software into their products.

The software, from an Indian company called SilverPush, allows apps to use the smartphone's microphone to listen to nearby television audio in an effort to deliver more targeted advertisements. SilverPush allows the apps to surreptitiously monitor the television viewing habits of people who downloaded apps with the software included, the FTC said Thursday.

"This functionality is designed to run silently in the background, even while the user is not actively using the application," the agency said in its letter to the app developers. "Using this technology, SilverPush could generate a detailed log of the television content viewed while a user’s mobile phone was turned on."

If the app developers state or imply that their apps do not collect or transmit television viewing data when they actually do, that may be a violation of the section of the FTC Act barring deceptive and unfair business practices, the agency said.

The 12 developers appear to have included SilverPush code in apps available in the Google Play store, the FTC said.

SilverPush has said its service isn't now operating in the U.S., but it encourages app developers that package its software to notify customers about its ability to monitor TV habits should the company move into the U.S. market, the FTC said. SilverPush representatives weren't immediately available for comment on the FTC's letter.

 "These apps were capable of listening in the background and collecting information about consumers without notifying them," Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. "Companies should tell people what information is collected, how it is collected, and who it’s shared with."

Some app developers ask for permission to use a smartphone's microphone, even tough the apps do not appear to have a need for that functionality, the FTC said. The apps apparently packaging SilverPush don't provide users' notice that they could monitor TV viewing habits, even if the app is not in use, the agency said.

The Center for Democracy and Technology, a digital rights and privacy group, raised concerns about SilverPush during an October FTC workshop on cross-device tracking.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Father’s Day Gift Guide

Brand Post

PC World Evaluation Team Review - MSI GT75 TITAN

"I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it."

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?