Officials urge app stores to highlight app privacy policies

Twenty-two privacy commissioners from around the world — including those from Canada, Alberta and British Columbia — are urging mobile app stores help users find privacy policies of the applications they carry.

The officials are asking the biggest app store operators in the world to point buyers to the privacy policies of every app in their inventory that can access or collect personal information.

The request has gone to Apple, Google, Samsung, Microsoft, Nokia, BlackBerry and, but is intended for all companies that operate app marketplace.

It comes after the second annual investigation by commissioners into the privacy practices of 1,200 of the world’s most popular apps, which found many apps appeared to collect personal information but didn’t have a privacy policy or other up-front privacy information. As a result uses couldn’t be make informed decisions about the collection, use, and/or disclosure of their personal information. Most marketplaces allow app developers to include a link to a privacy policy, the commissioners said, it isn’t mandatory.

So a number of privacy commissioners are turning to the app marketplaces for a little muscle.

If app store developers agree, the strategy could put pressure on developers to either be more up front about their privacy policies, or for those who don’t have to create one.

“While app developers clearly have a responsibility to communicate their privacy practices, mobile operating system developers and other app marketplace operators play a unique and integral role,” the 22 wrote in a letter to the marketplaces. “The app marketplace is an important consumer landing spot where individuals can search for new apps, read reviews, and access technical information about a particular app prior to downloading it – and this information is made available so individuals can make informed decisions about products in that marketplace.”

“Given the wide-range and potential sensitivity of the data stored in mobile devices, we firmly believe that privacy practice information (for example, privacy policy links) should be required (and not optional) for apps that collect data in and through mobile devices within an app marketplace store,” the letter says. “Such links provide a simple and convenient manner for individuals to obtain privacy-related information which they need to be meaningfully informed regarding the collection and use of their data before making the decision to download the app.”

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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