Total Pageviews

Friday, July 26, 2013

Daily Report: Proposing a ‘Nutrition Label’ for Mobile Apps

Like food packages that display nutrition labels, some mobile apps could soon display information that allows consumers to decide at a glance whether the apps are good for them, Natasha Singer reports.

A variety of groups, including app developers and consumer advocates, have agreed to test a voluntary code of conduct that would require participating app developers to offer short-form notices about whether their apps collect certain personal details from users â€" including health and social networking data â€" or share user-specific data with entities like advertising networks or consumer data resellers.

The idea is to allow people to compare the data collection practices of, say, flashlight apps and choose one that does not ingest unrelated material like their photos or contact lists. The determination that the notices are ready for testing is the outcome of yearlong negotiations â€" convened by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a division of the United States Commerce Department â€" to increase mobile app transparency for consumers. Participants included app developers, digital marketing, civil liberties, consumer and privacy groups.

On Thursday, many participants in the process voted to support a version of the code drafted by a diverse coalition including the Application Developers Alliance, an industry association, and advocacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the World Privacy Forum.

Although major mobile app developers like Apple and Google, which develops mobile apps for its Android platform, have not indicated whether they intend to sign on to the code of conduct, groups involved in drafting it say it is a significant advance in mobile privacy for consumers â€" and an unusual agreement among industry and consumer advocates.

“It’s a victory for common sense,” said Tim Sparapani, vice president for law, policy and government relations at the Application Developers Alliance, a group representing more than 100 companies and 20,000 individual developers.