* Privacy disclosures required before consumers download
* Litigation possible for not publishing privacy notices
* U.S. lawmakers say "serious concern" over Google privacy
By Gerry Shih
SAN FRANCISCO, Feb 22 Six of the world's
top consumer technology firms have agreed to provide greater
privacy disclosures before users download applications in order
to protect the personal data of millions of consumers,
California's attorney general said on Wednesday.
The agreement binds Amazon, Apple, Google
, Microsoft, Research In Motion, and
Hewlett-Packard -- and developers on their platforms --
to disclose how they use private data before an app may be
downloaded, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris said.
"Your personal privacy should not be the cost of using
mobile apps, but all too often it is," said Harris.
Currently 22 of the 30 most downloaded apps do not have
privacy notices, said Harris. Some downloaded apps also download
a consumer's contact book.
Google said in a statement that under the California
agreement, Android users will have "even more ways to make
informed decisions when it comes to their privacy".
Apple confirmed the agreement but did not elaborate.
Harris was also among U.S. state lawmakers who on Wednesday
signed a letter to Google CEO Larry Page to express "serious
concerns" over the web giant's recent decision to consolidate
The policy change would give Google access to user
information across its products, such as GMail and Google Plus,
without the proper ability for consumers to opt out, said the 36
U.S. attorneys general in their letter.
EU authorities have asked Google to halt the policy change
until regulators can investigate the matter.
CAN AND WILL SUE
California's 2004 Online Privacy Protection Act requires
privacy disclosures, but Harris said few mobile developers had
paid attention to the law in recent years because of confusion
over whether it applied to mobile apps.
"Most mobile apps make no effort to inform users about how
personal information is used," Harris said at a press conference
in San Francisco. "The consumer should be informed of what they
are giving up".
The six companies will meet the attorney general in six
months to assess compliance among their developers. But Harris
acknowledged "there is no clear timeline" to begin enforcement.
The attorney general repeatedly raised the possibility of
litigation at some future time under California's unfair
competition and false advertising laws if developers continue to
publish apps without privacy notices.
"We can sue and we will sue," she said, adding
that she hoped the industry would act "in good faith."
There are nearly 600,000 applications for sale in the Apple
App Store and 400,000 for sale in Google's Android Market, and
consumers have downloaded more than 35 billion, said Harris.
There are also more than 50,000 individual developers who
have created the mobile apps currently available for download on
the leading platforms, she said.
These figures are expected to grow. She said an estimated 98
billion mobile applications will be downloaded by 2015, and the
$6.8 billion market for mobile applications is expected to grow
to $25 billion within four years.