Apple, Google, Amazon and Microsoft on Thursday agreed to create standard privacy policies for the mobile apps they run, a sign of industry-led privacy efforts ahead of a White House effort to strengthen oversight of the Internet.
California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced the agreement with the six major providers of mobile software platforms. She said the firms agreed to redesign their app stores — including iTunes and Android Marketplace — to clearly display privacy policies.
Companies have been eager to convince federal regulators that they can enforce their own rules to protect consumers and their privacy on the Internet. The Commerce Department on Friday will unveil a report with recommendations for federal oversight of online privacy.
Under the agreement announced Wednesday, apps developers must also draw up their own privacy policies and prominently display them. Harris said in a press conference that 22 of the top 30 apps lack privacy policies.
“Your personal privacy should not be at the cost of using mobile apps, but too often it is,” said Harris, who said she will meet with the major companies in six months to check on their progress. She did not give a specific time frame for when new privacy disclosures will show up in app stores.
Harris’s announcement comes after the discovery that online social journal Path was scooping up the contact lists of its iPhone app users. Lawmakers expressed concern that Path and other mobile apps were uploading the contact lists on the device without consumers understanding that was happening.
If an app developer fails to follow the new guidelines, Harris said the state will sue the companies under California's Unfair Competition Law and/or False Advertising Law.
The Federal Trade Commission last week said apps aimed at children almost never have privacy policies that would inform parents about the data collection practices of software developers.