Code of Conduct to Disclose What Data Mobile Apps Collect

A group of app developers, consumer advocates and others are agreeing to test a voluntary code of conduct for data privacy for mobile apps. The code would set requirements for participating developers to release notices regarding whether their apps collect certain types of personal information or share user specific data with third party groups or data resellers. The Obama administration favors consumer privacy laws, but has yet to release additional details.

The purpose of the code is to disclose to consumers the data collection practices of mobile apps. The move into the testing phase is the result of negotiations lead by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce, along with app developers, digital marketing, civil liberties, consumer and privacy groups.

On Thursday, many of those involved voted to support a version of the code drafted by a coalition of the Application Developers Alliance, an industry association, and advocacy groups such as the ACLU and the World Privacy Forum.

Those critical of the code say that the notices will have little effect, reports The New York Times. They say that the notices would display limited data collection information and would not let consumers opt-out of data mining or see what personal data is collected. Despite support, mobile app developers, such as Apple and Google, have yet to indicate their intent to sign the code.

Previously, the app industry has been criticized by some consumer advocates and federal regulators for collecting personal data from users without their knowledge. Last year, the FTC reviewed 400 popular children’s mobile apps and determined that only 20 percent disclosed their practices on data collection.

The code of conduct would set requirements for participating mobile app developers to display indications on whether their apps collect user-specific information in eight categories. These are: biometrics, Web browsing history, phone calls or texts logs, contact list details, financial information, health or medical data, location data, and stored text, video or photo files.

Violators of the code would be subject to FTC enforcement, and the code is a first step by the Obama administration as it attempts to introduce a consumer privacy bill of rights. Yet, the administration has not made the proposed text of the legislation public.