Mobile App Developers Squawk About Proposed Law

April 4, 2013 Pivotal Labs

While mobile app developers didn’t like many of the provisions of Rep. Hank Johnson’s (D-Ga.) proposed bill to regulate mobile apps, most admitted that the congressman had done his homework. The Application Privacy, Protection and Security (APPS) Act of 2013, which has not yet been introduced into Congress, seeks to control what personal information developers collect on users and who they share that data with. If a measure like this passes, it would affect developers on mobile consumer application platforms. Senior Editor Eric Wicklund mulled over this bill in a recent article in PhysBizTech.

This bill addresses how app developers share data with third parties. Wicklund indicates that sharing data with third parties is already out of hand. He cites Joe Santilli, CEO of SafeApp, who says that in his company’s analysis of 1000 apps on Google, one app was sharing personal data with 50 third-party companies.

Even if privacy policies are provided, users may simply click past them to get to the app, making the bill’s provision a big deal for developers but having minimal impact on user privacy.

While it is possible that some types of apps should be held to a higher standard, such as apps dealing with healthcare, children, or financial information, regulating the explosive app marketplace is likely to have a crippling effect on development. It’s telling that although Santilli sees a problem with the way apps share information with others, he thinks Johnson’s bill would do more harm than good.

For now, Johnson’s bill is posted prominently on AppsRights.us, where discussions are ongoing and input on the bill is encouraged.

A law that looks more likely to pass is Senator Al Franken’s bill, which focuses on cyberstalking, the capability of apps (and third parties who get information from apps) to use the GPS functionality on phones to track users. Sen. Franken’s “Stalking Apps” bill passed in the Senate Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support.

App developers – including Xtreme Labs, as many of our clients are in the US – should keep an eye on these measures to see how they could affect their development efforts.

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