Mobile App Privacy Guidelines Draw Fire from Internet Groups

Industry associations say they support protecting app users’ privacy but claim that the California attorney general’s recommendations could harm business and squelch innovation.

Consumer privacy is a hot—and touchy—subject in an increasingly mobile world. California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris approached it head-on last week when she released guidelines for mobile app privacy, the first of their kind in the United States.

Along with the many wonderful capabilities these apps offer, we remain mindful that the mobile environment also poses uncharted privacy challenges.

“We are now offering this set of privacy practice recommendations to assist app developers, and others, in considering privacy early in the development process,” Harris wrote in her introduction to “Privacy on the Go” [PDF]. “Along with the many wonderful capabilities these apps offer, we remain mindful that the mobile environment also poses uncharted privacy challenges.”

The privacy guidelines range from asking app developers to avoid or limit collecting personal data not needed for the app’s basic function to calling on operating-system developers to create global privacy settings that users can control.

While the guidelines suggest that many stakeholders were consulted, a group of internet advertising, marketing, and media associations say they were left out of the conversation.

“We are disappointed that the California attorney general would finalize recommendations on such an important issue based on such limited engagement with the companies that will be expected to put them into practice,” Mike Zaneis, senior vice president for public policy at the Interactive Advertising Bureau, said in a statement. “Had our associations, and the hundreds of companies they represent, been consulted, we could have provided valuable perspective on how we already protect consumers on mobile platforms and have developed leading programs that provide transparency and control to consumers.”

In response to the guidelines, IAB, along with the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the American Advertising Federation, the Association of National Advertisers, the National Business Coalition on E-Commerce and Privacy, the Direct Marketing Association, and MPA–Association of Magazine Media, submitted a letter to the attorney general’s office voicing their concerns.

“Without participation and cooperative deliberation by the broader industry stakeholders, the sweeping recommendations contained in this report could have significant and negative impacts on California’s affected industries, innovation, jobs, and American commerce generally,” the group wrote.

“While we share your commitment to mobile privacy…the mobile ecosystem includes thousands of stakeholders that have not been included or adequately represented in this process,” the letter states. “Significant work is already underway on these matters, and we are concerned that issuing recommendations specific to California will result in confusion and mixed signals among companies and consumers alike.”


Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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