Apps run roughshod over user privacy, study says

You’ve been there: There’s an app you want on your smartphone or tablet but first you get a prompt asking for access to your location data or the device ID.

What do you do? Worry about your privacy rights and say “No?” Or, click “Yes” and hope you won’t regret it.

Mobile apps are failing to provide basic privacy protections, says a new report by an intergovernmental group that includes the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. The group looked at more than 1,200 applications.

What the group found won’t surprise consumers who buy a lot of apps:

  • 30 percent did not offer privacy protections of any kind.
  • 31 percent asked for access to a device ID, location, contacts, and so on, without explaining why it was needed.
  • 43 percent posted privacy policies that didn’t fit the mobile device screen.

As the Journal notes, in the U.S., applications are not required to have a privacy policy statement.

But in California, it is the law, and the state attorney general has written to software developers warning them if their apps do not have privacy policies, as CNET reported.

With the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus going on sale, Apple has said it would require a privacy policy on health-related applications.

In addition, Apple said that app developers can use consumer data from its HealthKit program,  its new set of tools for tracking fitness and health statistics, to help manage a person’s health and fitness, but not for advertising or other purposes, writes the Journal.

Privacy advocates have raised concerns that Apple’s guidelines leave room for interpretation and questioned whether Apple is prepared to enforce its rules, as the New York Times reported.

Above: A shopper tries out Accenture Technology’s augmented reality shopping app, code-named weShop, at a supermarket near the company’s offices in San Jose, Calif., Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

 

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