Keywords: privacy, mobile industry, California attorney general, consumer-privacy protection
Last week, California Attorney General (AG) Kamala D. Harris released new privacy recommendations for the mobile industry in an official report titled "Privacy On the Go: Recommendations for the Mobile Ecosystem". The report—part of an ongoing state initiative to strengthen consumer-privacy protections—sets forth the AG's preferred best practices for clear, comprehensive and conspicuous privacy policies in the app marketplace. Most notably, the California AG suggests that app developers make their privacy policies available and accessible to consumers before the app is downloaded.
Although the report suggests that it serves as a "template" for the state's growing population of app developers, advertising networks and related companies, the report recommends greater protections than are required by existing law. Given that the report lists requirements as well as recommendations, it is an open question how the state will handle companies that follow existing law but do not implement the additional recommended "best practices."
The report offers significant insight into the California AG's outlook and planned direction for the industry, and it is expected that the report's recommendations will be incorporated in some fashion into future enforcement actions. For instance, the report urges app developers to take a "surprise minimalization" approach, under which companies are asked to carefully consider the consumer's perspective when making disclosures. For app developers, this approach could mean using shorter, more comprehensible privacy disclosures that would alert users to any unexpected or unusual data-collection practices.
Originally published January 23, 2013
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