App Makers to Not Spy on You (at least not without your permission)

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bill-swift - February 28, 2012

What do Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Research in Motion (the makers of BlackBerry's), and Hewlett-Packard have in common? Well a few things. They're all technology companies, they all have an operating system for mobile devices and they all agreed to live by one set of privacy standards for apps this week.

The standard, which will be the same across all six of these tech giants, comes courtesy of the California court system and concerns raised over the practice of data grabbing through applications. Third part developers may take personal data off of a mobile device for their app. While this is not inherently a bad thing the lack of disclosure about which applications are taking what data, and how much data they take, has been a real issue.

To give you an example of how serious the problem is, more than 2/3rd of the most popular apps in these device makers combined app stores, have no privacy disclosures in the application. Many of the applications with a social slant automatically download all of the end users contact information for storage on the application developers server, with no way to opt out or to control how much of the data is shared.

With over 600,000 apps in the Apple App store and Android close behind at 400,000 apps you can see how this can get out of control quickly. This agreement will, at a minimum, require a user to be informed of what data is being taken before the app downloads. If you don't accept the terms you may not be able to use that app, but at least you will know.

The agreement will begin to go into affect on the 1st of March, but changes are likely to be slow in the beginning. Within the next six months all of the companies will be required to meet with the state attorney general to assess their current levels of developer compliance and make action plans for changes. Since no clear information about when enforcement will begin has been given there will likely be a gray zone for a while.

Article by Katie Gatto

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