Apps and Privacy: App-lying the rules and App-easing the users

In the first of a series of articles for PDP Journals examining data protection and privacy issues associated with software applications, I discuss the extent of data collected by apps and how to ensure consumers understand how their data is being used.

This was inspired during the Christmas break, when my Android smartphone notified me that there was a brand new version of the Facebook application available. As usual, I was then presented with a list of ‘App Permissions’, which sounded outrageous! Why would I want Facebook to read all my text messages? I certainly did not want emails sent without my knowledge or confidential information leaked. Although, upon further investigation, it sounded like Facebook’s actual use was more reasonable and much narrower than the activities that could be inferred from these ‘App Permissions’.

As this example demonstrates, applications may collect, access and use a wide range of information in order to provide users with features, as well as allowing the provider to conduct its own analysis and other activities. Assessing the extent to which such data processing is permitted and ensuring users understand what is going on can be very tricky.

A recent survey commissioned by the UK regulator (the ICO) also highlights the need for app developers to do more in protecting privacy and assuring consumers that they are doing so.

Further, since writing this article, the OFT has published principles for app-based games, which require consumers to be provided with sufficient information about how their data is collected and processed, what payments may be required, and with whom data may be shared.

Read the full article “Apps and Privacy: App-lying the rules and App-easing the users” published in Volume 14, Issue 3 of the PDP Privacy & Data Protection Journal (PDP Journals).

Olivia Whitcroft, principal of OBEP, 06 February 2014

This article provides general information on the subject matter and is not intended to be relied upon as legal advice. If you would like to discuss this topic, please contact Olivia Whitcroft using the contact details set out here: Contact Details