Signing on to an agreement between the California Attorney General and six major Internet companies – Amazon, Apple, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, and Research in Motion – Facebook announced that it too will require app developers to post links to their privacy policies if the applications collect personal data from users.
In February, the six operators of mobile application platforms agreed to improve privacy protections for consumers. The agreement with California AG Kamala D. Harris conforms to the AG's position that mobile app developers are bound by the state's Online Privacy Protection Act, which requires companies to post their privacy policies if they collect personal information such as names, e-mail addresses and phone numbers from state residents.
In a letter to Harris requesting that Facebook become a signatory to the agreement, its chief privacy officer Erin M. Egan wrote that the company was "guided by the principles" of the agreement when it built the App Center, a new feature that functions as a search engine for apps designed for use on the social networking site.
"The App Center provides a centralized place where our users can learn more about participating Facebook apps, read their privacy policies, and, where necessary, report problems. We are committed to building transparency, control, and accountability into all of our products, and we believe that the App Center empowers users to learn about the policies that will apply to data collected when they use mobile apps included in the Facebook App Center and to make informed choices about which apps they wish to use," Egan wrote.
To read AG Harris' press release about Facebook's inclusion in the agreement, click here.
Why it matters: The intersection of mobile devices and privacy concerns has received a great deal of attention recently. Three different agencies are addressing various issues relating to the topic. The Federal Trade Commission said it plans to include guidance in its forthcoming update to the "Dot Com disclosures," and the Federal Communications Commission is seeking comment on how wireless service providers store customer information on their devices. In addition, the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration is holding meetings as it begins the process of establishing privacy guidelines for mobile applications.