Privacy Protection on Mobile Applications to Increase

April 23, 2012

The majority of applications used on mobile phones today do not include privacy policies. Currently, only 5% of mobile apps have a privacy policy. That's about to change.

There are more than 600,000 applications available for download in the Apple Store alone, not to mention those available for other platforms. There have been more than 35 billion app downloads so far. Without disclosure, some apps are currently trespassing on consumer privacy (and, by extension, corporate privacy) by transmitting data back to app developers or potentially to third parties. Such information could include location-based data, contacts, identity, message information and photos. For example, 18 firms (including Facebook and Twitter) are currently being sued for using apps that gather and upload personal data without the owner's knowledge or consent.

There are also concerns that ad libraries, currently given the same access to user information, could download invasive code on your device, posing a direct security threat. There are currently no distinctions in place for differentiating apps from their ad libraries, in terms of access permission levels.

Amazon, Apple, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and Research In Motion have agreed to privacy principles designed to bring the mobile application marketplace in line with laws that require mobile apps that collect personal information to have a privacy policy.

"By ensuring that mobile apps have privacy policies, we create more transparency and give mobile users more informed control over who accesses their personal information and how it is used." - California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris

Privacy policies, though often left unread, promote transparency in how companies collect, use and share personal information. Further, the policies will create greater obligations to mobile app developers to respect privacy laws. Although a privacy policy is just a single step, it is a step in the right direction. We hope that companies continue to take initiative to further secure their apps.

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