Calif. AG Harris says app developers in conflict with privacy law

By Bryan Cohen | Oct 31, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline) - California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced this week that she has started to formally notify up to 100 mobile application companies and developers of their non-compliance with state privacy law.

The companies were given 30 days to conspicuously post a privacy policy in their applications that tells users what personally identifiable information is being collected and what will happen to the information. Up to 100 companies will receive the letters at this time, staring with the apps that are the most popular on mobile platforms.

"Protecting the privacy of online consumers is a serious law enforcement matter," Harris said. "We have worked hard to ensure that app developers are aware of their legal obligations to respect the privacy of Californians, but it is critical that we take all necessary steps to enforce California's privacy laws."

The letters are the first effort in taking legal action for the enforcement of the California Online Privacy Protection Act. The law requires commercial online service operators that collect personal information from Californians, including social and mobile apps, to conspicuously post a privacy policy. The privacy policies are meant to safeguard consumers by promoting transparency in how companies share, collect and use personal info. Companies can be fined up to $2,500 for each download of a non-compliant app.

Harris' action follows an agreement between her office and the seven leading social and mobile app platforms to improve privacy protection for millions of app users. Research in Motion, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon agreed to privacy principles meant to bring the industry into compliance with California's privacy laws. The agreement gives consumers the chance to review the privacy policy of an app prior to downloading it. Additionally, the agreement gives consumers a consistent location for the privacy policy on the application-download screen in the platform's store.

The California Online Privacy Protection Act is one of the privacy laws enforced by the Privacy Enforcement and Protection Unit. The unit was created in 2012 in an effort to enforce state and federal laws related to the disclosure, retention, collection and destruction of sensitive or private information by organizations, the government and individuals. The unit enforces laws related to government records, identity theft, financial privacy, health privacy, cyber privacy and data breaches.

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