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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Application Data Privacy Project’s consumer resources

The Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) Application Developer Responsible Data Use Project (AppPrivacy) aims to provide application developers with the tools and resources necessary to implement responsible information collection and use practices. It also offers a guide for consumers to resources that can help safeguard mobile privacy and security. The Future of Privacy Forum is a Washington, DC-based think tank. (Consumer Action sits on its advisory board.) Its app project was founded in response to the incredible proliferation in the number of mobile and web applications, or “apps,” that are now available to users. FPF notes that apps have become integral to the way people experience social networks and the mobile Internet. Consumers are wise to be cautious about the apps they download, as many are supported by advertisements, and some collect information from the user to help advertisers display ads that are tailored to the user’s interests. It is important that both users and developers understand how the data collected is used when the user interacts with the app, and what recommended practices developers should adopt to best protect the privacy and security of their consumers. In April, Consumer Action’s DC-based Senior Associate for National Priorities Michelle De Mooy traveled to Silicon Valley for a conference convened by the Future of Privacy Forum in partnership with the Application Developers Alliance and the Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society. The conference was a groundbreaking event, bringing small and large developers of applications (or apps) together with policymakers and advocates to discuss how to improve both privacy protection and consumer experience using apps. “In DC, there are few opportunities to speak to technology people from the ground up about consumer expectations when it comes to privacy,” said De Mooy. “It was enlightening to learn about the challenges facing small app developers as they build products for consumers.” App developers told De Mooy they deal with enormous pressure to build and release apps quickly, which can make it hard to “bake in” consumer privacy protections. App developers often are unsure which types of personal information people might object to being shared or subjected to third-party use, said De Mooy, even while they agree that protections should be stronger.