Director of Privacy Education and Policy | Office of the Attorney General |
California Department of Justice
I attended a health privacy conference recently and was surprised at how much mobile dominated the conversation, both in sessions and during breaks. Privacy officers in healthcare organizations are struggling to balance the benefits of easy, real-time smartphone consultations among docs with appropriate privacy controls. Privacy officers’ Bring Your Own Device challenge is exacerbated by the difficulty in determining what’s going on in the mobile space: many apps still don’t provide privacy policies.
Of course, I may have mobile tunnel vision, since I’ve been working intensively on mobile privacy for the past several months. As have many in the technology and privacy communities, who are building the thousand or so new apps that come onto the market each day, developing corporate policies on the use of mobile devices, or participating in the laboratory of democracy that is the National Telecommunications and Information Administrationmultistakeholder process on mobile app transparency.
As innovators in Silicon Valley and elsewhere are building out the mobile ecosystem, Attorney General Kamala Harris has seized this watershed moment to encourage them to build in privacy. This encouragement is taking several forms: enforcing privacy laws, empowering consumers with information, and educating businesses in best practices.
We want to help developers think through the privacy decision-making process. To that end, we’ve been working on a roadmap, a best practices guide on mobile privacy which we will release soon. We also plan to offer some training sessions for app developers in the new year.
I recognize that while I enjoy reading privacy policies, many people do not. And yet consumers are concerned about the privacy practices of apps. A recent study from the Pew Center on the Internet & American Life found that more than half of mobile app users uninstalled or decided not to install an app because of concerns about its privacy practices. We have some suggestions, and we look to others with a stake in the app economy to come up with privacy innovations to make apps not only useful, convenient, and fun, but also privacy-respectful.