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Mobile app privacy policy a step forward

California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ agreement announced this week committing the leading operators of mobile application platforms to require privacy policies for applications (“apps”) is a step forward, Consumer Watchdog said, but in addition “Do Not Track” regulations must be implemented to fully protect consumers.
Attorney General Harris negotiated the agreement with six companies whose platforms comprise the majority of the mobile apps market: Amazon, Apple, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and Research In Motion. The agreement requires that apps have privacy policies. The majority of them now do not and people have no idea what data is collected about them and how it is used.
“This is an improvement from the current Wild West that is the mobile market,” said John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project director. “But trying to decipher what’s going on through a privacy policy written by lawyers, paid by the word to obfuscate can be extremely frustrating. It’s even more difficult on small hand-held devices. We need a simple, persistent way to send a message that a user doesn’t want to be tracked. We need Do Not track legislation.”
The California Online Privacy Protection Act requires operators of commercial web sites and online services, including mobile apps, who collect personally identifiable information about Californians to conspicuously post a privacy policy. If developers do not comply with their stated privacy policies, they can be prosecuted under California’s Unfair Competition Law and/or False Advertising Law.
According to the Attorney General, there are more than 50,000 individual developers who have created the mobile apps currently available for download on the leading platforms. There are nearly 600,000 applications for sale in the Apple App Store alone, and another 400,000 for sale in Google’s Android Market. These apps have been downloaded more than 35 billion times.
Harris estimated that a majority of the mobile apps currently available for download through the platforms do not include even the most basic privacy protection: a privacy policy setting forth how personal data is collected, used and shared. One recent study found that only 5 percent of all mobile apps have a privacy policy.
Contributed by Consumer Watchdog

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Published: February 23, 2012 – Volume 10 – Issue 45



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