App Privacy

The use of mobile applications on smartphones continues its trend of strong growth.  According to a recent press release, users of Apple’s App Store have downloaded over 40 billion apps, with over two billion downloads occurring in the month of December alone.  According to Apple, nearly 20 billion of the 40 billion downloads occurred in 2012.  Apple’s App Store first opened in July 2008; thus, users downloaded nearly the same number of apps in the last year as the combined total in the two and a half years before that.

mobile-app.pngWith numbers like these, it is clear that consumers are embracing the use of mobile apps at an ever growing rate.  To meet this demand, developers are responding with a large selection of apps.  As reported in an article written by InsideMobileApps, last October, Apple and Google, creators of the two largest mobile application marketplaces, reported that they were hosting approximately 700,000 applications each.

However, as the use of mobile applications continues to grow, it is important to consider the legal implications of creating and releasing apps.  App developers must not only conform to the relevant law in their own jurisdiction, but they must also consider the law in the jurisdiction of the users of the apps as well.

For example, the California Attorney General’s Office recently established a Privacy Enforcement and Protection Unit to ensure that information collected on the state’s residents conforms to state statues such as the California Online Privacy Protection Act (OPPA).  In late 2012, California’s Attorney General has also specifically targeted mobile app developers and operators.  Mobile app developers and operators collecting the personal information of California residents must have a conspicuously posted privacy policy that describes clearly and completely how personal data is collected, used, and shared.  Without such a privacy policy in place, mobile app developers and operators could face fines.  To better assist developers in understanding these requirements, the Attorney General has published a set of privacy guidelines recommending some best practices.  While these guidelines provide a general idea of the steps a developer can take to conform to the requirements of the statutes, they may not provide the detailed analysis needed to make informed business decisions.

If your company has released a mobile application or is planning on developing one, be sure to seek solid advice.  Contact us for additional information.