The Problem with Mobile Privacy
Now that smartphones usage is driving mobile app development to new levels, it’s becoming apparent that there’s a serious “disconnect” between what app developers want and what the consumer ultimately demands. The consumer wants to feel safe, like they have some measure of privacy, but the average app developer has little-to-no incentive to give it to them.
According to a study by the Future of Privacy forum (cited in the Daily Online Examiner), 22 of the top 30 mobile apps lack privacy policies. It has recently become known that many apps (and the iOS operating system itself) do capture, store, and transmit data about the user, including details like identifiers and location data. In many cases, the user isn’t even aware that this data is being collected, much less that it’s being transmitted and used by online marketers and others.
Privacy advocates take major issue with these practices. They, along with some private enterprises, have expressed support for a “baseline” set of privacy rules based on fair information practices. Though there are varying proposals, the core of the need is for app developers to make clear what information is being gathered and why, and let consumers decide whether they’re willing to participate.
The real reason that app developers aren’t more anxious to enact privacy policies of this nature is that doing so takes work, and they have no real incentives to inform users about the data collection and distribution. Incentives come in two basic forms: the gold medal and the German shepherd. A gold medal is a positive incentive that someone is motivated to move toward, and a German shepherd is a negative outcome that a person or business is motivated to move away from or avoid.
Neither of these exists in the realm of mobile privacy. There are no laws requiring developers to give consumers notice and choice about collection of data. Nor do most wireless carriers and device manufacturers mandate anything of this nature.