Blog & Company News

Aug 9, 2012

Tech News: Study Reveals App Developers Don’t Always Provide Privacy Policies

With a reported 25 billion iPhone apps and nearly 20 billion Android apps on the market, one would think a user’s personal data was kept private. However, a new report from the Future of Privacy Forum, an advocacy group for online practices, suggests otherwise.[1] The survey released Wednesday, July 11, revealed a need for more industry standards when it came to app developers. Although the results indicate developers are moving in that general direction, there still needs to be an across the board written policies for all apps. The Future of Privacy Forum examined the most popular paid and free apps on both leading app platforms; iOS App Store and Google Play. According to the study, apps with a privacy policy doubled on the iOS App Store platform from 40 percent to a whopping 84 percent. However, the iOS paid apps only went up a mere four percent, from 60 percent to 64 percent. Google Play on the other hand has apparently always shown a more dedicated practice toward privacy policies with nearly 70 percent of its free apps already protected. The study, however, did show a six percent jump from 2011. Meanwhile, their paid apps had a much lower starting percentage, but went from 30 percent to 48 percent. “App developers are starting to get the message that access to consumer data is a privilege not a right. Taking the time to document data collection and use practices is the first step to showing that you are a responsible company,” said Director and Co-Chair of the Future of Privacy Forum, Jules Polonetsky. “Although providing a privacy policy is no silver bullet, the process of documenting data use and making oneself legally accountable is critical first step to building consumer trust.” The study notes that “almost all leading apps” have already a written privacy policy in place for users, but popular apps including ‘Cut the Rope’ on Android OS and ‘Fruit Ninja Lite’ on iOS do not provide such policy. Instead, the apps have quietly been collecting location information about consumers and sharing it with advertisers. According to the report, out of the 50 apps surveyed on the iOS App Store platform, 12 requested precise location information; only 10 of those 12 had privacy policies. Same with Google Play platform as 14 out of the 50 apps surveyed asked for location information and only 10 of those had privacy policies. “Developers have access to tremendous amounts of very sensitive data about their customers,” said Justin Brookman, Center for Democracy and Technology’s director of consumer privacy. In an effort to educate and give developers the tools necessary, the Future of Privacy Forum and the Center for Democracy and Technology are releasing a publication titled “Best Practices for Mobile Application Developers.” “We’re offering these Best Practices guidelines to help well-meaning developers preserve user’s privacy without stifling the innovation and convenience offered by new platforms,” said Brookman. “Enforcement activity by the FTC and the California Attorney General, as well as the efforts of the platform providers, are driving the significant progress we have seen by app developers to do the needed work to put privacy policies in place,” Future of Privacy Forum Christopher Wolf added. “The Administration’s multi-stakeholder process focusing on apps and launching in Washington this week can build on this progress to further ensure that consumers understand what they are getting when they download an app.”
[1] Future of Privacy Forum Study Results Show App Developers Heed Call for Privacy Policies