U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal wants consumers to beware of the dangers of using mobile shopping applications.
“These mobile apps are potentially great boons for consumers, but they are also possibly a bad deal,” Blumenthal said Friday at a Hartford press conference.
A recent study by the Consumer Electronics Association found that 74 percent of shoppers over the Thanksgiving weekend planned to use their smart phones or tablets to scout out deals or help hunt down bargains.
“Consumers ought to be wary and aware of the deal that may come with these apps,” Blumenthal said. “It may be a bad deal if they are sacrificing privacy and security of key personal private information that may be collected, shared, sold, or exchanged without their knowledge or consent.”
Blumenthal said the information these shopping apps could give include your location, and other important information, such as your credit score.
“Shoppers ought to know that data means dollars,” Blumenthal said. “The deal can be a really raw deal if they are marketed and their privacy is invaded as a result of their using these apps.”
Blumenthal estimated there are about 20 to 40 mobile shopping apps and each has different practices and policies.
William Efron, director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Northeast Regional office, said a recent report by his office found many of these apps don’t provide consumers with “key information” prior to download.
“Companies should disclose consumers rights and liabilities for unauthorized, fraudulent or erroneous transactions,” Efron said. “Consumers should be able to know what their potential liability is for unauthorized transactions.”
He said consumers should look at information about how their data will be collected, used, and shared before downloading an app.
Evan Preston, executive director of ConnPIRG, said consumers “have a right to make informed choices about who accesses our information.” But part of the problem is that “less than a third of Americans believe they control access to this information through these apps.”
Blumenthal said he was holding Friday’s press conference to help educate consumers and doesn’t plan on introducing any legislation.