MMA finalizes Mobile Application Privacy Policy guidelines

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The Mobile Marketing Association trade association issued its finalized MMA Mobile Application Privacy Policy guidelines, intended to offer developers a framework for creating more secure user experiences. The completed document incorporates industry input collected during a public comment period that closed on Nov. 18, 2011.

The MMA Mobile Application Privacy Policy guidelines offer developers annotated guidance on core privacy principles alongside consumer-friendly language to consider using. The MMA also suggests ways to inform users on how data is obtained and used and offers guidance on security and confidentiality of information. "Our guidelines offer developers the foundation from which to craft a document that reflects the privacy practices of each of their apps and helps them stay in compliance with applicable law and industry standards," MMA Privacy & Advocacy Committee co-chair Alan Chapell said in a statement. "We urge app developers to consult with their legal counsel when adapting these guidelines for their purposes."

The MMA Mobile Application Privacy Policy was created in response to exploding interest in mobile apps among consumers and marketers alike. According to the MMA, more than 58 percent of U.S. mobile users express concerns that others can access their personal data.

Last year, U.S. Senator Al Franken (D., Minn.) sent letters to Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) demanding that the companies' developer partners adopt formal privacy policies. "Unfortunately, neither of your companies requires that apps on your stores have a privacy policy. As a result, a significant portion, and potentially a majority of apps, on your stores lack privacy policies," Franken wrote in a letter dated May 25. "A recent study by TRUSTe and Harris Interactive found that only 19 percent of the top 340 free apps had a link to a privacy policy. A separate survey by the Wall Street Journal found that 45 of 101 top apps for iPhone and Android OS devices lacked privacy policies. And yet consumers say they want more privacy. They want more transparency and control about who is getting their information, how it is being used, and who it is being shared with."

Franken goes to admit that while requiring all apps to offer "a clear, understandable privacy policy" would not resolve most privacy concerns, "it would be a simple step that would provide users, privacy advocates and federal consumer protection authorities a minimum of information about what information an app will access and how that app will share that information with third parties."

Franken's solution: Requiring all location-aware applications available for download from the App Store and/or Android Market to provide clear instructions indicating what location data is collected, how that information will be used and how it is shared with third parties.

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