Record-pace app sales reinforce urgency of authorities' mobile app privacy push

A global effort to improve awareness of mobile-app privacy policies could gain further weight after Apple released new figures confirming that mobile apps continue to be bought and downloaded at record-breaking pace.

Users of the company's App Store spent nearly $US500 million ($A619 million) on apps during the first week of January alone, Apple reported, with New Year's Day marking the biggest day of app purchasing in the App Store's history.

The figures came on the back of a “record-breaking 2014, in which billings rose 50 percent and apps generated over $US10 billion [$A12.4 billion] in revenue for developers,” Apple said in a statement in which senior vice president of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue said 2015 was “off to a tremendous start”.

With some 1.4 million smartphone and 725,000 tablet apps available in the App Store and device unit sales continuing to expand the user base, the growing popularity of mobile apps has raised red flags with global privacy authorities, which recently joined forces to promote better clarity and transparency around mobile-app privacy policies.

Last month, 23 privacy authorities from around the world – including Australian Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim – wrote an open letter to mobile-app giants Google, Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Nokia, Blackberry, and Amazon.

The letter pushed the companies to mandate mobile app developers to provide links to their privacy policies before an app is downloaded, reflecting the privacy authorities' desire to improve transparency around the increasingly-common practice of collecting personal information from users.

“Directing users to where they can easily access an app's privacy policy will allow people to make a meaningfully informed decision about the collection and use of their data before making the decision to download the app,” Pilgrim said in a statement.

Privacy authorities are also pushing mobile app developers to build better security and privacy controls into their apps, with the AIC recently releasing a privacy guide for mobile app developers and promoting a “privacy by design approach” that Pilgrim said would “incorporate privacy considerations at the beginning of projects.”

“If mobile app marketplaces also require apps to provide users with easy access to the privacy policy,” he said, “then I believe that will be making progress towards improving the customer's privacy experience.”

The action by privacy authorities followed a May 2014 review of mobile app privacy that found 85 percent of reviewed mobile apps were accessing large amounts of personal information but failed to clearly explain how that information would be collected, used, and disclosed.

This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.

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Tags Enex TestLabMicrosoftNokiaBlackberryAppleamazonsamsungAICCSO Australiamobile-app giants Google$US500 millionprivacy pushdownloadedInternet SoftwareRecord-paceApple releasedApp Store's history

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