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Mobile App Developers in Violation of Privacy Laws

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A February 22, 2012 announcement by California State Attorney General Kamela D. Harris quotes a study by the Federal Trade Commission that says ‘…a majority of the mobile apps currently available for download do not include even the most basic privacy protection.’ The FTC found that ‘only five percent of all mobile apps have a privacy policy.’


Coming on the heels of that revelation of her newly updated interpretation of California privacy laws was her ominous Oct. 2012 notifications to 100 app developers.


With the point and click nature of many of today’s app creation tools allowing relatively uninitiated developers to create a mobile app, it may be difficult to ascertain what percentage of mobile developers actually possess the technical proficiency to insert the requisite context sensitive, just in time privacy notices to alert users of their apps of the many potential privacy pitfalls that await them.


Even if an app developer is a geek of the highest order, deftly orchestrating multiple code languages to fulfill their legal obligation for a comprehensive privacy protection policy, it all may be compromised when they permit their mobile app to funnel clients’ personal data, such as; texts, photos, geolocation, audio or video to an ad agency, MBaaS provider or other third party player. 


So it is that most mobile app developers are very likely in violation of California State, United States Federal and International Privacy laws. This especially if a mobile dev writes apps such as games that are used by children.


To complicate matters further, developers must take into account the incorporating of privacy policies and notices that are conspicuously visible on tiny mobile displays.


The exciting landscape of today’s mobile ecosystem can be likened to the wild, Wild West of yore. Where laws are sometimes enforced, yet more often than not lost in the vast expanse of the Internet.


Sooner or later, as cyber civilization develops, legal authorities will rein it in and rain on the parade for the good of society and possible detriment of the indefinable that makes the Internet what it is.


What the ultimate price will be, if any, for the widespread failure by mobile developers and their partners in crime, the entire mobile ecosystem, to effectively monitor and institute genuine privacy protections for the mobile masses is still unknown. Furthermore, the nature of online interactions, basically one big party line, may preclude such a notion.


Even with proper regard and protections for mobile device users in place, the constantly increasing and unpredictable power of technology may make privacy, like peace on earth, an unattainable ideal.


Some community members over at weren’t convinced that the new mobile privacy movement will bear fruit. Robyn Tippins:

I'd like to be wrong, but I don't see this turning into actionable mandates any time soon.



And Tony Phelps:.

They are targeting the wrong audience. Until the non-technical business side of app development - the side that manages and funds many apps - recognizes privacy as an essential need, these will not be adopted.



Those considerations notwithstanding, soon may be gone the days when mobile devs can tell the authorities at large that the ‘dog ate their homework’.





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