Privacy Commissioner to release mobile app guidelines

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New expectations for app developers.

Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pligrim will release a new set of privacy guidelines for mobile app developers next week, with third party data sharing expected to feature prominently.

The Privacy Commissioner has been consulting with industry and consumer groups on the guidelines since April. He said developers can expect increased scrutiny of privacy practices in the app industry by both regulators and the market itself.

The draft guidelines, released in April, highlight a 2012 study that found 56 per cent of Australians do not approve of having advertising targeted to them based on personal information. Further, 69 per cent of respondents reported they had refused to use an application or website because it collected too much personal information.

The draft guidelines suggest developers only collect personal information that the app needs to function, and state that ideally, users should be able to opt out of sharing their personal information with third parties such as ad networks.

But industry is arguing the guidelines should be less prescriptive. In its submission on the guidelines, the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association said the Commissioner’s suggestion that users be prompted to accept or decline permissions each time an app is updated will make the user experience confusing, and distract from more important new privacy notices.

The Privacy Commissioner also wants app users to be able to give “meaningful consent”, suggesting privacy notices no longer than one screen page in length in order to help prevent “notice fatigue”.

“No one wants to read a 20-page privacy policy on a small screen,” it states.

The draft guidelines currently lack direction on the collection of location information, something the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network is lobbying to have included.

The consumer group also wants the guidelines to actively discourage developers from offering in‐app benefits in exchange for personal information.

The guidelines are due to be released by the Commissioner at an event on Monday.

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