The Price of Free Mobile Apps Under the Video Privacy Protection Act

22 Pages Posted: 2 May 2018 Last revised: 12 Jul 2018

Date Written: 2016


After the Washington City Paper published Judge Bork's rental history of 146 videos during the Supreme Court nomination hearings in 1988, Congress enacted the Video Privacy Protection Act ("VPPA "). The statute mostly adapted to changing video platforms, but the extent of its protections for smartphone users is questionable. This Comment will argue that the VPPA does not adequately safeguard consumers when app developers or providers allow users to download mobile apps for free. This Comment will discuss the statutory definitions of videotape service provider, consumer, and personally identifiable information ("PII"). It will explain how and why mobile apps collect personal data and what countermeasures the Federal Trade Commission ("FTC") has taken to regulate mobile businesses. The Comment will analyze the legislative history of the VPPA, the issues with the definitions of consumer and PI, and the societal response to privacy intrusions. This Comment will recommend that the FTC issue business guidance, promote consumer awareness, and bring enforcement actions against businesses that fail to protect consumers. This Comment will conclude that while the VPPA serves as the minimum standard to prevent unauthorized disclosures by mobile app providers and developers, new judicial standards and reliance on the FTC are better measures of regulating mobile commerce in this context.

Keywords: VPPA, video privacy protection act, PII, personally identifiable information, FTC, federal trade commission, enforcement action, regulation, mobile commerce

JEL Classification: enforcement, technology

Suggested Citation

Riopel, Suzanne L., The Price of Free Mobile Apps Under the Video Privacy Protection Act (2016). American University Business Law Review, Vol. 6, No. 1, 115, Available at SSRN:

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