California Threatening Developers With $2,500 Fine Per Download For Privacy Violations

The California Attorney General is threatening scores of app developers with massive fines for non-compliance with privacy notification laws. “The companies were given 30 days to conspicuously post a privacy policy within their app that informs users of what personally identifiable information about them is being collected and what will be done with that private information,” stated the official release. Failing to comply leaves companies susceptible to fines big enough to bankrupt a small country–$2,500 per download. While the state is unlikely to levy that kind of force, companies will certainly take notice of their legal obligations to comply with the California Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

“I am sure that the AG’s office will prefer that apps come into compliance rather than pay fines,” says Jules Polonetsky, Director of policy think tank, the Future of Privacy Forum, “but it appears that it is going to take the threat of enforcement to get the attention of developers.”

According to the Forum’s research, roughly 61% of apps conspicuously display privacy information, and most top app downloads did comply. Amazon, Apple, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, and Research In Motion, and (later) Facebook have all signed on to the new privacy regulations.

Not that the state would be able to collect all of the money even if it inflicted the maximum fine. But, to give a sense of scope, if Angry Birds actually violated the privacy rules, the fines collected would pay off most the debt accrued by the entire United States over the last 2 years (roughly $2.5 trillion, resulting from 1 billion downloads).