Leading Mobile App Platforms Sign Privacy Agreement with California AG

Published On February 23, 2012 | By Melissa Maalouf | FTC & State AG, General, Privacy
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On February 22, six leading operators of mobile application platforms (Amazon, Apple, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, and Research In Motion) signed an agreement with California Attorney General Kamala Harris committing to improve privacy protections offered to consumers that access the Internet through apps on their mobile devices and tablets.

Attorney General Harris emphasized the importance of the agreement given that 22 of the 30 most downloaded apps do not currently have privacy policies.  She also noted that more than 50,000 developers have made apps available through the major platforms, resulting in nearly 600,000 apps for sale in the Apple App Store, and another 400,000 for sale in Google’s Android Market.  The apps have been downloaded more than 35 billion times, and these numbers are expected to grow.

The agreement seeks to align the privacy protections available through mobile apps with California’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“OPPA”).  OPPA requires operators of websites or online services that collect personally identifiable information through the Internet about California residents to conspicuously post a privacy policy detailing how they collect, use, and share personal information.  Under the agreement, consumers will be afforded the opportunity to review an app’s privacy policy before downloading the app, and also will be provided with a consistent location from which to view an app’s privacy policy on the app-download screen.  In addition to the requirement to conspicuously post a privacy policy, the companies have also agreed to:

  • Include, in the application submission process for new or updated apps, an optional data field where app providers can either include a hyperlink to their privacy policy, the text of their privacy policy, or a statement describing the app’s privacy practices.
  • Implement a means for users to report to the mobile platform companies the apps that do not comply with applicable terms of service and/or laws.
  • Implement a process for responding to reported instances of non-compliance with applicable terms of service and/or laws.
  • Continue to work with the California Attorney General to develop best practices for mobile privacy in general and mobile privacy policies in particular.

If app developers do not comply with their posted privacy policies, they can be prosecuted under California’s Unfair Competition Law and/or False Advertising Law.  Within six months, Attorney General Harris will convene interested stakeholders to evaluate privacy in the mobile space, including whether educational programs regarding mobile privacy should be introduced.

About The Author

Melissa Maalouf’s practice focuses on advising a broad range of clients, from start-ups to established companies, on both U.S. and international data privacy and security issues. Melissa assists clients in drafting appropriate website disclosures, implementing legally-compliant e-commerce flows, responding to FTC Section 5 and state AG enforcement actions, analyzing advertising claims, and children’s online privacy and safety issues. She also regularly helps clients obtain certification under the EU-US Safe Harbor and navigate compliance with divergent international privacy laws.

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