SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Soon you’ll be seeing privacy notices popping up on your mobile applications.

More than 1,600 new mobile apps are being introduced every day and whether they are subject to the same privacy laws that govern regular online activity, and what app makers have to do to comply with the law, has been a legal gray area for years.

To provide some clarification in this area, on Friday, State Attorney General Kamala Harris released a report called “Privacy on the Go: Recommendations for the Mobile Ecosystem” which outlines best practices for app makers, including allowing people to read the privacy policy before downloading apps and “special notices” that pop up when private data is entered that disclose the fact that the data will be collected and used.

Now, as a “policy statement” the document isn’t the same thing as a law – which the Attorney General can’t create – but it does give some insight as to how the AG’s office will interpret the California’s Online Privacy Protection Act – namely, what will be expected from mobile apps.

This is not the first time the Attorney General has taken aim at this issue. In 2012, she created the Privacy Enforcement and Protection Unit to focus on all kinds of privacy issues.

And just last month, her office sued Delta Airlines for not having a privacy policy even though its app, called “Fly Delta” collects users name, telephone number, email address, frequent flyer account number and location. The company faces a fine of $2500 per violation – which as you can imagine adds up to substantial amount of money.

So, think of the new policy guidance as roadmap of how to avoid getting sued by the Attorney General.

The practical effect of enacting these policies is that, for the purposes of privacy, apps will look more like websites in that you’ll see and probably ignore the privacy protection legalese. I mean, who really reads the terms and conditions on the iTunes store? You hit ‘Accept’ and move on with your day. So, probably little substantive change for most users, but for those who are really careful about online information sharing, this will help provide more notice.

While the report states that it is the result of “consulting a broad spectrum of stakeholders,” at least one group, the Interactive Advertising Bureau has criticized the policies, issuing a statement saying, “We are disappointed that the California Attorney General would finalize a recommendation on such an important issue based on such limited engagement with the companies that will be expected to put them into practice.”

But on the bright side, it might be a boost for the market for privacy apps.


(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


Comments (2)

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Watch & Listen LIVE