Senate Panel Wants Privacy Policies from Mobile App Developers

Lora Bentley
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10 Cutting-edge Mobile Application Trends for 2012

Mobile applications will increasingly define the user experience on high-end devices.

Tuesday, a new Senate privacy panel headed by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) heard testimony from Google and Apple representatives regarding the companies' respective practices regarding the collection of user location data. Last month, Franken said the panel was a "first step" to determining how the law needs to change to keep up with the rapid growth of mobile tech.


According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Apple's Guy "Bud" Tribble and Google's Alan Davidson told the lawmakers that customers have control over when and how the location data is collected. Apple allows its customers to turn off location-based functionality in its devices with one touch of a button, and they can block individual apps from collecting location information. Similarly, Google only collects information that customers specifically agree to share, and Android apps must get permission before collecting location data.


Though Franken acknowledged the great benefits mobile users can get from location-based services, he pointed out that such information can be very dangerous in the wrong hands - stalkers, abusive spouses, etc. He urged the companies to do whatever they could to help ensure the information is not used improperly. Specifically, he asked that they require all developers creating applications for their respective platforms to adopt formal privacy policies.


He said:

I just want to be clear that the answer to this problem is not ending location-based services. No one up here wants to stop Apple or Google from producing their products.

But will requiring app developers to have privacy policies really do it? As I've said several times, the biggest problem with a lot of the practices privacy advocates oppose is not that data is collected, but that it's collected without user knowledge and consent. Finding a way to make sure users understand how their data will be collected and used should be the top priority.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
May 12, 2011 11:53 AM Jerry Latham Jerry Latham  says:

Android apparently has taken the correct basic approach; "OPT IN" as opposed to Apple's choice of "info will be sent unless you opt out" (usually in uber-small print and ability to change later hidden in depths of multi-layered options).


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