Privacy Policies of Mobile Apps Falling Under Increased Scrutiny by State and Federal Regulators

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In recent months, mobile application developers (e.g., Zynga) and mobile platforms (e.g., Apple’s iTunes) have faced increasing scrutiny in connection with their privacy practices, primarily with respect to transparency. State and federal authorities, members of Congress, and litigants have all brought attention to perceived failures of mobile applications (“apps”) to disclose information collection and disclosure practices.

The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has weighed in on these issues by settling its first enforcement proceeding against a company that used a mobile app to collect information from children. The FTC has also released a “warning” in a staff report in connection with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) that focuses on the failure of companies collecting personal information through mobile apps and the platforms that make those apps available to properly disclose privacy practices for apps targeted at children. Following the FTC report, the California attorney general announced a non-binding agreement between the state and six leading mobile app platforms that is likely to increase pressure on various participants in the mobile app arena to disclose their information collection practices through privacy policies. In addition, the White House recently proposed a “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights” which encourages the development of legally enforceable codes of conduct, including for mobile apps.

This alert will discuss the increasing state and federal scrutiny that mobile app providers are experiencing.

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