The first CleanApps.org webinar is in the books! It took place on August 30 and featured participation from a diverse group of stakeholders: leaders from Microsoft, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”), consumer rights groups, AppEsteem, security companies, call centers, advertising networks, and app vendors.

Our goal with the webinar was to provide more details about the Supply Chain Accountability Campaign that AppEsteem is launching this month – which will hold apps accountable for affiliates and call centers that mislead consumers.

CleanApps.org sees one of our primary roles as ensuring that as many stakeholders as possible know what’s coming and can be prepared when an enforcement effort like this is launched. We also hope that the community can rally behind such campaigns to protect consumers and support responsible businesses (this webinar was open to the public; some future webinars will be restricted to CleanApps.org members and special guests).

The August 30 webinar included guest speakers from Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit (“DCU”) and AppEsteem. Some highlights:

  • Donal Keating of DCU stressed how important it is to Microsoft that people can trust the technology they use. He cited DCU’s long-standing focus and concerns about tech support fraud. According to Donal, tech fraud is often enabled by fraudulent call centers and misleading affiliates, so he said Microsoft supports third parties like AppEsteem and CleanApps.org – and efforts like the Supply Chain Accountability Program – addressing the problem in broader and innovative ways.
  • Donal specifically pointed to the value of AppEsteem’s Deceptor program – in which AppEsteem calls out apps (and now affiliates and call centers) that deceive consumers and shares the intelligence with security companies. He compared it to intel sharing that Microsoft does with other large technology providers, all of whom are committed to protecting consumers. But he noted something special about the Deceptor program: it helps security companies at a level even more immediate and closer to the everyday consumer than current industry sharing arrangements.
  • AppEsteem’s Dennis Batchelder walked through the basics of the new enforcement campaign. While many apps may be in great shape and cause no harm to consumers in and of themselves, he said AppEsteem has seen apps that all too often rely on parts of their supply chain – advertisers, affiliates, and call centers – that do mislead consumers.
  • Dennis argued that unless such Deceptors are called out, consumers will continue to be exploited, responsible software vendors who create clean apps will face significant financial pressure to use or copy harmful supply chains and thereby harm consumers, and security companies will be hard-pressed to do the difficult supply-chain vetting necessary to insulate consumers.
  • Dennis cited three major goals of the campaign: 1) increase accountability of misleading actors in the supply chain and protect consumers, 2) remove pressure on responsible vendors to engage in bad behavior, and 3) help security companies better protect their customers.
  • Finally, Dennis urged apps, affiliates, and call centers to sign up for certification or register for advance Deceptor notification (both of which are free).

Before the call ended, the FTC’s Betsy Broder noted that the FTC has long worked with organizations like DCU, and is interested in collaborating with AppEsteem in future investigations. She said she’s eager to learn more as AppEsteem collects information about harmful and uncertified actors on the internet.

For those of you who missed the 39-minute session and want to learn more, don’t worry: we recorded it. Just click below for play back:

Thanks again to all who participated. Our next webinar is scheduled for September 26 – be sure to join CleanApps.org to avoid missing this event and others we are planning in the coming months!

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