Privacy Developments

The first quarter of 2012 saw many legal developments in the mobile app industry regarding consumer privacy and privacy policies. Some highlights include:

  • White House’s Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. On February 23, the Obama administration announced a Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights (CPBR) focused on how private-sector entities handle personal data in commercial settings in the digital economy. The CPBR applies to all commercial uses of “personal data,” meaning any data that can be linked to a specific individual or device.  The CPBR adopts seven general principles as a guide for future rule-making and legislation, including key principles such as transparency, data security, rights of consumers to review data for accuracy and accountability.
  • Agreement with App Stores. On February 22, the California Attorney General announced an agreement with leading operators of mobile application platforms to bring the industry in line with a California law requiring mobile apps that collect personal information to have a privacy policy. The six companies include Amazon, Apple, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and RIM. Read more here http://oag.ca.gov/news/press_release?id=2630. On February 27, in Europe, Vodafone Group, Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom, Orange and others announced voluntary app privacy guidelines. See http://www.law360.com/articles/313747/european-mobile-giants-agree-to-app-privacy-standards.
  • Request for U.S. House Committee Briefing Regarding Apps and Privacy. On March 14, U.S. Representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA) and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) requested representatives of Apple to brief the staff of the Energy and Commerce Committee about Apple’s efforts to protect the privacy and security of its mobile device users, and specifically the manner in which apps can access photographs on the company’s mobile devices and tools provided by the company to consumers to prevent unwanted tracking.
  • Class Action Lawsuit Against Tech/Social Media Companies. On March 14, a class action lawsuit was commenced against 13 companies, including Twitter,, Apple and Facebook, alleging that the technology and social networking companies “surreptitiously harvest, upload and illegally steal the owners’ address book data without the owners’ knowledge or consent.” Read more here http://techcrunch.com/2012/03/14/austins-other-event-a-class-action-mobile-app-privacy-lawsuit-filed-against-facebook-twitter-apple-15-others.
  • Given these developments, stakeholders in the mobile app industry should think through privacy implications of the technology they create and be proactive and incorporate privacy protections into the design and use of mobile apps.

This post was authored by Amina Kaal.

 
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