App Stores Now Require Privacy Policies

Amazon Google Play iTunesClear back in 2012, Google, Apple, HP, Amazon and Microsoft all met with Attorney General Kamala Harris, representing the State of California and its California Online Privacy Protection Act and agreed to provide and present privacy policies for all apps offered in their respective stores. So says an article written by and available here.

Back then, only 5% of all apps could be linked to a privacy policy before the potential user downloaded the app and had already forfeited all his/her personal information. Now, all mobile apps in use in California will offer privacy policies that users can read before downloading the app. Not just California, but the entire the global marketplace will be affected by making privacy policies visible to users everywhere who download apps through the Android Marketplace, the App Store or any of the other platforms hosted by the participating companies.

At a press conference in San Francisco announcing the agreement, Harris explained that it had previously been somewhat unclear to app developers and platform providers whether the California Online Privacy Protection Act, which requires any “web site or online service that collects personally identifiable information through the Internet” to “conspicuously post its privacy policy,” applied to mobile apps.

“There’s been a question,” Harris said, and “we have resolved that.” Harris added that developers should be “on notice” that the state was prepared to enforce the newly clarified law, effective immediately, against both developers and platform providers that fail to comply. Most people know that many of the companies responsible for online and mobile apps got their start in California. “We take a great deal of pride in the technology that was born in our backyard,” Harris said. “There’s no desire on any of our parts to slow down what’s potentially life-changing and world-changing technology.” But that doesn’t mean making app users choose between securing their privacy and accessing the industry’s innovative resources.

To be clear, privacy policies do not limit what apps can grab from smartphones and other mobile or online digital devices, which can include device ID numbers, email addresses, location, personal contacts, calendar entries, photographs, videos and more. It simply requires app developers to inform consumers about how they will use the information taken. Even though app users may not read the policies, at least now they will be able to read them. Although full resolution of the mobile privacy issue agreed upon will have to include buy-in from platform operators and app developers, consumer education and potentially regulation, in the four years since this initial meeting, much has changed to ensure the use of privacy policies from app developers.

One site, for example, offers app developers with an opportunity to receive a free privacy policy to use for their app. They simply answer a few questions regarding how the app will use and share private information and the site immediately creates the document based on those answers. All the app developer needs to do at that point is paste the code for the document on his website that is linked to the app and his/her job as it relates to the need for a privacy policy is finished. They’ve already given away almost 500,000 free privacy policies. To get yours, click here!

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