January 24, 2013
Attorney General Kamala D. Harris recently issued recommendations for mobile application (app) developers and the mobile industry to safeguard consumer privacy. The report provides guidance on developing strong privacy practices, translating these practices into mobile-friendly policies, and coordinating with mobile industry actors to promote comprehensive transparency.
“Californians want to know what personal information their apps collect, how it is used and with whom it is shared,” said Harris. “To meet this need and keep pace with rapidly changing technology, these recommendations strike a responsible balance between protecting consumers’ personal information and fostering the continued growth of the innovative app economy.”
The report, Privacy on the Go: Recommendations for the Mobile Ecosystem, is the result of an outreach effort that compiled input from stakeholders throughout the mobile industry. Its purpose is to serve as a template for the mobile industry to develop mobile-friendly privacy policies and practices that will improve consumer privacy without stifling innovation. To accommodate the smaller screens of mobile devices, the report recommends the use of special notifications such as icons, or pop-up notifications to inform consumers about how personally identifiable information is being collected and shared.
The issue of mobile privacy is increasingly pressing as more than half of American adult cell phone owners access the Internet from their phones, and more than 1,600 mobile apps are released every day.
To protect consumers’ online privacy Harris forged an agreement among the seven leading mobile and social app platforms in 2012. The agreement – with Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and Research in Motion – involved displaying app privacy policies that users could find in a consistent location in the platform store and review before downloading an app.
Last year, Harris also established the Privacy Enforcement and Protection Unit to enforce federal and state privacy laws regulating the collection, retention, disclosure, and destruction of private or sensitive information by individuals, organizations, and the government. This includes California’s Online Privacy Protection Act, as well as laws relating to cyber privacy, health and financial privacy, identity theft, government records and data breaches.