California Requires Mobile Apps to Tighten Privacy Rules

Tech companies must disclose app policies before download

Rather than wait for Congress or federal regulators to act on mobile app privacy, the state of California Wednesday announced a deal with six major mobile app platforms to bring privacy practices in line with California law regarding the collection of personal information.

The six companies—Amazon, Apple, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and Research in Motion—agreed to give consumers the opportunity to review the privacy policy for an app before it begins to download. As part of the commitment, the companies must also educate app developers about their obligations regarding consumer privacy and disclose to consumers what private information is collected, how it is used and with whom it is shared.

"Your personal privacy should not be the cost of using mobile apps, but all too often it is," said California Attorney General Kamala Harris in a statement.

Harris cited a study that estimated the majority of mobile apps currently available "do not include even the most basic privacy protection." Another study cited by Harris found that only 5 percent of all mobile apps have a privacy policy.

In six months, the attorney general will review the companies' compliance with the agreement.

Concerns in Washington over mobile app consumer privacy have been mounting since the recent discovery that the social networking app Path and other Apple utilities were downloading consumers' address books without permission.

Moving to self regulate, the Mobile Marketing Association three weeks ago released its final privacy framework for mobile apps addressing incidents like the address book flap. The guidelines call for app developers to fix and update their privacy policies, present them in plain language and comply with the MMA's standards of notice, transparency and choice. 

Publish date: February 23, 2012 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT