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May
15
2012

Only 1 top free iPad app has a privacy policy

Tony Berman
Sr. Product Manager | TRUSTe
@otaat

This week I did a quick review of the top 10 free apps for iPad. Besides having two very happy children after discovering some new games on my iPad as part of my review, what I found is quite disturbing and reinforces the push by the FTC and the California Attorney general’s office to improve privacy in the mobile application space.

By the numbers my review shows the following:

Zero
None of the 10 apps have a link to a privacy policy within their app store listing. This is not surprising given that this is a recognized problem in the mobile space that prompted the California Attorney general’s Office to reach an agreement with app store providers to re-design their platforms to ensure that the app developer’s privacy policy will be accessible from a consistent place.

Three
Three apps include a link to developer websites that have privacy policies. This at least provides some notice, but the notice is not app specific. Ideally the notice should be accessible from within the app store listing as well as within the app itself and apply to the particular app.

Five
Five apps try to incorporate their privacy policy within their “Application License Agreement” by including links to a privacy policy. In all 5 instances the privacy policy link did not populate when clicked. This cannot be regarded as reasonable disclosure of privacy practices of the app. Even if the links worked, it is not reasonable for a mobile user to have to navigate a License Agreement to try to find a privacy policy link.

While incorporating privacy in the license agreement is better than nothing it does not meet the requirements laid down by the Californian Attorney General requiring that developers give clear upfront disclosure of privacy practices in an easy to read mobile format, nor that of the FTC who “calls on companies providing mobile services to work toward improved privacy protections, including the development of short, meaningful disclosures”

One
Saving the best for last, one app in the top 10 does have a privacy policy accessible from within the app itself. This particular app developer also has its privacy policy easily accessible from its “Application Developer Website”. Below is a screenshot showing the privacy policy link.

Developers are encouraged to take advantage of TRUSTe’s mobile optimized privacy policy solutions. More information is available at http://www.truste.com/free-mobile-privacy-policy/ .  I look forward to seeing the results of redesigned app stores that incorporate privacy policy disclosures and am hopeful that my next analysis of the top apps will show an increase in the number of apps using privacy policy disclosures.

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