While looking through my iPhone apps this morning, I found it disturbing that I really do not know what data all these mobile apps on my phone are collecting. We should not have to browse to a mobile app site to read their privacy policies – only to find out that we have limited choices, if any at all (if we want to use their software), in restricting the personal data that they collect.
What is going on, according to experts, is that applications like Angry Birds and even more innocuous-seeming software, like that which turns your phone into a flashlight, defines words or delivers Bible quotes, are also collecting personal information, usually the user’s location and sex and the unique identification number of a smartphone. But in some cases, they cull information from contact lists and pictures from photo libraries. –NYT
Mobile apps are still in Wild Wild West mode where privacy invasion has become a runaway train. With more than 1 million mobile apps available to download, many free – at what cost to you is free? Maybe you inadvertantly allowed the app to collect your email address for marketing purposes, or gave it access to your contact list. If an app does not have settings to control your privacy or to control access to your contacts or other personal data – don’t use that app!
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently published a guide for mobile developers, Marketing your Mobile App: Get it Right From the Start - encouraging developers to understand and utilize advertising and privacy rules prior to creating a mobile app. Unfortunately, there are way too many app developers who do not respect user privacy.
The publication follows agency actions against two mobile app developers regarding information collection and product claims. In one such agency action, an app developer paid $50,000 to settle FTC charges that it failed to require parental notice and consent before collecting and disclosing children’s personal information. A second developer settled with the Commission after claiming without proper substantiation that its mobile app treated acne. Advertising claims and privacy issues both have special importance for digital health and mobile health developers because of heightened advertising and privacy concerns for products that make health or safety claims or collect medical information. –JDSupra | Legal News
Privacy dangers lurk in ubiquitous data-gathering mobile apps and the more knowledge that we gain in this area – the better informed we become in making wise app choices.