With the growth of popular mobile apps, one thing seems to be missing: privacy policies. Typically it is added quickly after the app is designed and developed and ready for use. It seems as though most users are not too worried about privacy policies on mobile apps and they don’t give a lot of thought to them. However, it is important to note that all privacy policies are not alike. There are times when a missing clause or some legal documents that don’t quite match up in privacy policies have caused quite a stir. There have been some very successful apps that have run into huge legal messes and been fined large sums of money because they did not properly integrate their privacy documents into their app.

Why are apps fined?

Path is a social app that was fined almost a million dollars by the Federal Trade Commission for violating privacy laws. The app made to serious mistakes:

  • The app collected and stored third party names and numbers from user’s contact without disclosing this practice properly.
  • The app failed to comply with COPPA which is a law that is applicable to every app that collects information from children.

An app can extract contact information from uses and even store them. But they must also explain these actions in their privacy policy along with how they will use this information. App developers have two options. They can simply comply with the guidelines set forth by COPPA; or they can have users enter their birthdates to be certain all users are over 13.

What is “Privacy by Design”?

The FTC favors a new approach called “Privacy by Design” and wants developers to use this approach when designing and developing apps. This approach builds privacy in at each developmental stage. This means a few things:

  • Thinking of privacy issues before building a feature or an app
  • Protecting information if you collect it
  • Keeping privacy policies updated

These steps help cover app developers as well as protect consumers from their privacy being breached.