Android apps privacy policy 2012

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The makers of the most widely used mobile app stores have agreed to comply with a California law requiring mobile apps that collect personal information to have a privacy policy. California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced the agreement today with Apple and Google, which run the two most popular mobile app stores, as well as Amazon, HP, Microsoft, and Research In Motion.”These platforms have agreed to privacy principles designed to bring the industry in line with a California law requiring mobile apps that collect personal information to have a privacy policy,” Harris’s office said in a press release. “The majority of mobile apps sold today do not contain a privacy policy.”The agreement doesn’t place restrictions on what types of data app makers may collect. But app makers must describe “how personal data is collected, used and shared,” and make their privacy policies easily found by users. App store listings will contain either the text of the privacy policy or a link to the policy.There have been several controversies over mobile app privacy, and one of the most recent centered on the social network Path accessing and uploading iPhone users’ contact databases without permission. Harris noted that a Wall Street Journal report last year found “that 45 of the top 101 apps did not provide privacy policies either inside the application or on the application developer’s website,” despite the fact that most of the mobile apps were transmitting a phone’s unique device ID or location “to other companies without users’ awareness or consent.” Some apps were also transmitting the user’s age, gender, and other personal details.

The Washington, D.C.-based think tank Future of Privacy Forum (“FPF”) released a study this week detailing the current state of mobile app privacy policies as of this past month, June 2012. The report found that many app developers are now responding to the increased pressure from U.S. regulators on this issue, and have now introduced privacy policies for their applications as well as new policies surrounding the use of customers’ private data.Specifically, the report shows that the percentage of free apps with a privacy policy doubled on the iOS App Store since the last report in September 2011, going from 40% to 84%. The percentage of paid apps with privacy policies on iOS increased by 4%, from 60% to 64%. And on the Google Play platform, the percentage of free apps with a privacy policy actually started high at 70%, and increased to 76%. The percentage of paid apps increased as well, going from 30% to 48%.

Government Regulators Look Into App Privacy: A Refresher
In February, the FTC released a report which has a specific emphasis on mobile apps targeting children, where it stated that app makers on both the iOS and Android platforms were doing very little to properly inform consumers about their data collection practices. The FTC stressed that without this information, there really isn’t a good way for parents to make smart choices about the applications they allow their children to download and use.Parents and children aren’t the only demographics affected by consumers’ lack of information and understanding around personal information privacy, of course. As we also discovered back in February, apps that had access to private address book data, like Path, weren’t taking sufficient precautions with user data. Subsequent outrage ensued. The Path problem blew over, as these things tend to do, but government’s involvement in the matter did not.In addition to the FTC, the California Attorney General’s office indicated in February that it would enforce California’s Online Privacy Protection Act against app developers. Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Hewlett-Packard, and Research In Motion all agreed that they would require developers to include privacy policies in their apps, so users would be better informed about how their data was used. At the time of the announcement, there was no specific time frame given as to when the companies would need to be in compliance, but California Attorney General Kamal Harris said her office would revisit the situation in six months time.
In June, Facebook signed a similar agreement with the AG’s office, covering all the apps in its App Center.And earlier this month, the National Telecommunications & Information Administration in the U.S. Department of Commerce announced it would host a series of meetings concerning mobile app privacy, with a focus on developing an appropriate code of conduct.

To help you better evaluate which apps to download on Android, third-party developers can include a link to their privacy policy with their app in Google Play. This is an optional field that Google provides to developers who want to share their privacy policy with users – these privacy policies are written by the app developers and are not evaluated by Google.Not all Android apps on Google Play have a privacy policy posted; however, if the app you’re looking at does have a privacy policy, you can find and review it on the when browsing on Google Play.

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