Mobile Apps Privacy Bill Introduced in House

Georgia Democrat Hank Johnson today introduced a bill that would require app makers to present privacy policies to users before they collect any data from their mobile devices and to securely maintain the data they collect. 

The bill — called the Application Privacy, Protection and Security Act, or Apps Act — essentially follows in the footsteps of the California Attorney General’s office, which began requiring mobile apps to offer users privacy policies.

The legislation stems from a online community effort Johnson led.

“The overwhelming majority of participants who helped build the legislation – more than 80 percent – confirmed that Congress should protect consumers’ privacy on mobile devices. These engaged citizens also wanted simple controls over privacy on devices, security to prevent data breaches, and notice and information about data collection on the device. The Apps Act answers the call,” Johnson said in a statement.

Many privacy advocates have pointed to apps, which access a range of sensors and data on users’ mobile devices, as a potential threat to individual privacy.

“Mobile apps have become the Wild West of the Internet. The APPS Act … will give consumers the ability to understand what happens to their data and some control over its use,” said John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog’s privacy project director.

Privacy experts have largely been critical of long written privacy policies as a way to educate users, who rarely read them. But they hailed the bill as an important first step.

“It is time for Congress to do its part on privacy, and the APPS Act is one possible light-touch way to begin. With the failure of self-regulatory attempts to put users in control of their data thus far, it is time for legislation,” said Allecia McDonald, the director of privacy at Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society.

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