A huge turnaround from the tech giants of the 21st Century

Mobile apps privacy disclosureFollowing on from my previous blog post, in which it was revealed that your iPhone, iPad and even your iPod is stealing from you, news has emerged that the privacy of mobile app users will now be better protected under new rules agreed to by some of the world’s top consumer technology companies.

The firms, which include Apple, Google and Microsoft, have agreed to provide greater privacy protection for those who download apps, where there will be more obvious privacy disclosures before users download apps in order to protect personal data.

Data Grabs” from third-party apps

The sudden shift in how these companies treat user privacy comes from the recent exposure and criticism of how apps collect users’ personal details through various third-party applications, which are not clear in how much of a user’s personal data they store on their servers.

Google is already under major scrutiny over its privacy policy, and faces an ongoing inquiry from the US Congress over its security settings in browsers tracking millions of users of its services on Apple’s iPhone and iPad, and users of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser.

Industry’s major players to reveal how they use private data

The new agreement means that Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, BlackBerry-maker Research in Motion (RIM), and Hewlett-Packard, along with developers on their platforms, are required by law to disclose how they use personal data before an app is downloaded.

Attorney General Kamala Harris said “Your personal privacy should not be the cost of using mobile apps, but all too often it is,”

Harris points out that 22 of the 30 most downloaded apps do not have privacy notices, which is rather alarming.

Why Privacy Matters

Nearly 600,000 applications are on offer in the Apple App Store and 400,000 in Google’s Android Market, and with consumers downloading more than 35 billion, the scale of this problem is pretty clear.

California’s 2004 Online Privacy Protection Act calls for privacy disclosures, but Harris explained how most mobile developers had ignored the law because of confusion over whether it applied to mobile apps.

“Most mobile apps make no effort to inform users about how personal information is used,” Harris said at a press conference in San Francisco. “The consumer should be informed of what they are giving up.”

The Guardian reports that “The six companies will meet the attorney general in six months to assess compliance among their developers. But Harris acknowledged that there was no clear timeline to begin enforcement.

The attorney general repeatedly raised the possibility of litigation at some future time under California’s unfair competition and false advertising laws if developers continue to publish apps without privacy notices.”

What do you think? Do you think these companies should be sued over misleading use of apps?

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