Apple, Google, And Others Agree To Mobile App Privacy Policy Guidelines

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Though Apple, Google, Microsoft, RIM, Amazon, and HP don’t always see eye-to-eye, the six of them have entered into an agreement brokered by California Attorney General Kamala Harris to take a tougher stance on the issue of mobile privacy.

Going forward, the six companies involved must provide users with a privacy policy if the app in question collects personal information. Though the move will affect the app submission and downloading process for users the world over, it was designed to bring those six companies into compliance with California state law.

“The majority of mobile apps sold today do not contain a privacy policy,” Harris said. “By ensuring that mobile apps have privacy policies, we create more transparency and give mobile users more informed control over who accesses their personal information and how it is used.”

It isn’t just enough for these companies to provide app-specific privacy policies to their users; they must also do it before the user downloads it, creating a much-needed means for them to opt-in. Apple and company also need to be consistent in how they display that information, as the agreement Harris brokered called for “a consistent location for an app’s privacy policy on the application-download screen.”

On top of that, users will also be given tools to help police their respective app stores. The terms of the agreement note that the platforms in question will allow users to report non-compliant apps, which could bring about some welcome change in some respects — while the Android Market already allows users to flag questionable apps, the iOS App Store and the Windows Marketplace don’t give users that power.

The past few weeks have made the mobile privacy issue a hot-button topic outside of the tech sphere, and the attention doesn’t just end with California’s AG — two congressmen sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook posing questions about user data privacy, and the White House will be holding an online meeting tomorrow to accompany the release of a white paper on online privacy. Regardless of how this privacy discussion began, don’t expect for the talk to subside any time soon.