‘Apps act’ would make privacy disclosures mandatory

Apps on iPhone screen

Reuters file

With more than 1.5 million apps now available for Android phones and Apple’s iPhone, a congressman is proposing a law that would require mobile app developers to let users know what an app’s privacy policies are when it comes to information being shared and the length of time the information is kept by a developer.

“Data has become the oil of the 21st century, and like any other resource, there must be common-sense rules of the road for this emerging challenge,” said Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., in introducing the Application Privacy, Protection and Security in Congress Thursday.

“Every day millions of Americans use mobile applications to help us get through the day,” Johnson said. “But many consumers do not know their data is being collected. This privacy breach is just not 1s and 0s, it’s personal information, including our location at any given moment, our photos, messages and many of the things meant only for our friends and loved ones.

“Yet we lack basic rights to control how and how much of our data is collected on our phones, iPads and tablets.”

The bill, H.R. 1913, also being called the “Apps Act,” follows a report from the Federal Trade Commission in February about the same issue. In that report, the agency suggested ways for “critical players” such as app developers, advertising networks and mobile operating system providers like Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and BlackBerry, to provide “timely, easy-to-understand disclosures about what data they collect and how the data is used.”

The FTC report noted that “consumers increasingly are concerned about their privacy on mobile devices. For example, 57 percent of all app users have either uninstalled an app over concerns about having to share their personal information, or declined to install an app in the first place for similar reasons.”

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