Developers of New Apps Need to Consider Privacy Issues

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There’s been much talk of Google’s upcoming streamlined privacy policy. Now come new demands for cleaner, user-friendly data collection and usage disclosures in the mobile app world. Two recent events highlight changes that online advertisers and app developers need to prepare for: (1) a letter from Congressmen Henry Waxman and G.K. Butterfield to Apple regarding the security of user address books and contacts stored on iOS devices and (2) an FTC report regarding privacy disclosures for mobile apps directed at children.

The Congressmen’s letter is in response to the recent Path address book fiasco in which Path acknowledged – and apologized for – its collection of consumer address book information without notifying users. News surrounding Path’s activities led to Congressional concerns over the extent to which consumer data, especially contact information, is being collected and stored for future harvesting, all without the consumer’s knowledge or permission. The Waxman-Butterfield letter quotes the Guardian: “there’s a quiet understanding among many iOS app developers that it is acceptable to send a user’s entire address book, without their permission, to remote servers and then store it for future reference. It’s common practice, and many companies likely have your address book stored in their database.”

The congressmen called for Apple to address how its app policies and practices protect consumer privacy. Apple was swift to respond, and within the day vowed to release a software update to prevent data collection that would violate the company’s privacy policies.

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