Google, Apple & Microsoft agree on Universal Privacy Policy for Smartphone Apps

Apparently the U.S. Government hasn’t heard that privacy is dead.

Instead the California’s attorney general held a gathering of the world’s major smartphone companies: Apple, Google, HP, Microsoft, Amazon.com and Research in Motion, to decide on the future of smartphone-driven internet privacy. The goal for the attorney general was to cajole the leading smartphone manufacturers into reaching a universal agreement on privacy protection for the app-using mobile public.

This new universal agreement would force all app developers to conspicuously post their privacy policies to their downloading public, including details on what personal information they retrieve from their users and exactly how they will use it.

“What this requires is the app developers outline and articulate the private information they are extracting from the user and give them notice,” says US attorney general Kamala D. Harris. “This requires the platforms to post these privacy policies in their market and store, and that of course was not required before.” (Read the press release).

The plan seems timely as it is relevant given the free-for-all status of most app builders on zapping extremely private information from smartphones and releasing it to god knows who. So, a good idea overall. But, to be honest, do any of us care? And if we do “care”, do we care enough to read through a convoluted privacy policy? Unless the American government forces app builders to post an uber-brief, bulleted version of their privacy policy on the open page of the app’s download page–one that forces us to read it before the app begins downloading–it is doubtful that many people will bother reading the new, “conspicuously” placed privacy policies.

All the smartphone companies agreed to and signed the agreement, a move Harris calls a major success. Their compliance is not surprising though given that Harris’ office announced very publicly that it would prosecute companies that refuse to clearly layout their privacy policies under California’s Unfair Competition Law and False Advertising Law. Hmm. Not sure that this ‘meeting of the smartphone minds’ was really needed after all, since its a comply-or-face-prosecution scenario. Perhaps Kamala Harris doesn’t have enough real work to keep her busy as attorney general. Kamala: try downloading the Facebook app. It sure takes up spades of MY time and I heard it has a good privacy policy.