Future of Privacy Forum and Carnegie Mellon University Research Leads to New Tool from California Attorney General

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Technology

Last week, California’s Attorney General, Kamala D. Harris, announced the release of a new form that allows consumers to report potential violations of the California Online Privacy Protection Act (CalOPPA) by websites and online services.

Attorney General Harris’ announcement explained that FPF’s 2011 research into app privacy policies had prompted an earlier agreement between her office and prominent mobile app platforms to encourage apps to post privacy policies. Now, a new FPF study commissioned by Attorney General Harris revealed the need for further work, leading to the release of the new complaint form.

The FPF Mobile Apps Study revealed that while the number of apps that provide privacy policies continues its upward trend from FPF’s previous surveys in 2011 and 2012, health and fitness apps – which may access sensitive, physiological data collected by sensors on a mobile phone, wearable, or other device – do worse than average at providing privacy policies. Only 70% of top health and fitness apps had a privacy policy (6% lower than overall top apps), and only 61% linked to it from the app platform listing page (10% lower than overall top apps).

The App Study also looked specifically at period tracking and sleep aid apps. Only 63% of period tracking apps provided a link to the privacy policy from the app platform listing page. More disappointingly, only 54% of sleep aid apps provided a link to the privacy policy from the app platform listing page.

Attorney General Harris has also worked with Carnegie Mellon University privacy researchers to review apps for compliance with the law and is collaborating with the Usable Privacy Policy Project at CMU to develop a tool that will identify mobile apps that may be in violation of CalOPPA.

FPF applauds Attorney General Harris for her long standing commitment to protecting consumer privacy and encourages consumers to utilize the new form to report suspected violations of CalOPPA.