If you’re like me, you may get irritated at pop-ups that advise you of the privacy warnings on certain apps or sites and click “OK” just to get to the content you want. But there’s a risk in doing that, privacy groups warn.
Privacy notices are intended to inform the user whether the app they’re trying to use or the site they’re trying to visit is collecting data about their location, biometric information, contact info, browser history, your contact list and maybe even financial info. But how can you be sure in each instance and make an informed decision? This particularly is a challenge with mobile apps where lengthy legal documents aren’t easy to read on a small screen and brief pop-up messages tell you little.
A group called the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) last week announced that it will begin testing a series of mobile app privacy notices designed to let users know what, if any, information a mobile app is collecting.
The announcement was reported in a blog post by Natalie Fonseca, who’s organizing the Privacy Identity Innovation (PII) conference coming up in September in Seattle. I covered another PII conference in 2011 in Santa Clara, Calif.
The dilemma, Fonseca wrote, is “how to clearly communicate to consumers what information an app is collecting in an intuitive way that doesn’t negatively impact the user experience.”
The NTIA includes various tech companies, applications developers and various interest groups, including privacy protection groups. “The goal [of the NTIA project] is to develop a voluntary code of conduct that will help mobile app-related businesses address this need for greater transparency about the types of personal data their apps are collecting.”
So the industry, the regulators and privacy groups have been grappling with this issue for some time.
Whether it’s through government regulation or an industry response, the more information and the more clear information consumers have about how apps use their personal information, the better off we’ll all be. Let’s hope the NTIA effort yields some tangible results.
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