Hardware giants sign 'global' apps privacy accord

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Hardware giants sign 'global' apps privacy accord
Image credit: TRUSTe

All apps to show how they handle user information.

Amazon, Apple, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and Research in Motion have agreed to implement privacy policies for all apps in their ecosystems.

The new “global agreement” announced by California’s Attorney General Kamala Harris will see the companies begin to lead the implementation of privacy policies for hundreds of thousands of mobile apps, which for the most part have flown without any policy that states how information will be used.

The new agreement should ensure that consumers across the globe have the chance to review the policy before downloading the app.

Although the agreement focuses on compliance with the California Online Privacy Protection Act, consumers outside that jurisdiction will benefit from the availability of a description of how the app handles information.

"Your personal privacy should not be the cost of using mobile apps, but all too often it is," said Harris. 

"This agreement strengthens the privacy protections of California consumers and of millions of people around the globe who use mobile apps.

“By ensuring that mobile apps have privacy policies, we create more transparency and give mobile users more informed control over who accesses their personal information and how it is used." 

A big question will be how app makers deliver the policy. Often lengthy, dry and complex, privacy policies mostly go unread.

However recent research by privacy vendor TRUSTe and market research firm Harris Interactive found that 52 percent of respondents had read a privacy policy for a mobile app, but that only 19 percent of apps provided one to assess. [pdf]

The company advocated the use of graphical, short notice policies that made them more likely to be read.   

The new agreement comes after alarm raised by the discovery that social network Path collected Apple iOS users’ address books, thanks to an API call that Apple offers to developers. 

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