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Tech Companies Agree to Disclose Mobile App Privacy Policies

| February 22, 2012
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Mobile phone users will be able to view apps privacy policies before downloading. (Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

Mobile phone users will be able to view apps privacy policies before downloading. (Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

Smartphone owners who download mobile applications could soon be able to easily access the app’s privacy policy.

A deal between State Attorney General Kamala Harris and six technology companies — Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Hewlett-Packard, and Research In Motion — requires that mobile app developers inform users of their privacy policies before users download mobile applications.

Harris said that too often, mobile apps and app stores make no effort to inform users about how personal information is collected, used or shared, at a news conference in San Francisco today.

“What we know is that there are apps that, once downloaded by the consumer, will also in turn download the consumers contact book. I would suggest to you most consumers don’t want that to happen and don’t know it’s happening,” Harris said.

The agreement brings mobile applications in line with California’s Online Privacy Protection Act, Harris said.

“If developers do not follow the privacy policies, we will sue. We can sue and we will sue,” Harris said.

But Jeffrey Chester, director of the Washington D.C based Center for Digital Democracy, calls the agreement “flimsy” because it does not regulate what a mobile application can or cannot do.

“Mobile devices are incredibly powerful surveillance tools that are now being used to track our every move online,” Chester said. “So what was needed was a tough agreement that would limit the amount of data that could be collected by the Googles and Apples of this world.”

Harris said she plans to meet again with the companies in six months to assess mobile privacy.

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