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Google, Apple, Microsoft Agree to Mobile App Privacy Changes

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smartphones4Less than a week after a Federal Trade Commission report condemned the lack of privacy policies and disclosures from mobile application providers, Google, Apple, Microsoft, HP, Research In Motion (RIM) and Amazon have agreed to improve privacy protections for their customers.

The agreement, which came about after pressure from the U.S. justice system and California's attorney general, Kamala Harris, will bring the mobile application market in line with California laws, and requires all applications that collect personal data to have a privacy policy, with the principles applying to customers across the globe.

"Your personal privacy should not be the cost of using mobile apps, but all too often it is," Harris said. "This agreement strengthens the privacy protections of California consumers and of millions of people around the globe who use mobile apps."

Harris added that privacy policies will allow users to stay informed about who has access to their personal data and how it is used.

Mobile application providers can often access user data, such as location, contacts, messages and photos, Harris said. The privacy policy agreement will make this personal data they collect visible to customers.

Under the terms agreed by the companies, consumers will be given the opportunity to review an app's privacy policy before they download an app rather than after, and will be able to find the policy in a consistent location on the application-download screen.

The six companies have committed to educating application developers about their obligations to respect consumers.

If the companies fail to adhere to the agreement, Harris said they can be prosecuted under California's Unfair Competition Law and False Advertising Law. Users will soon be given tools to report non-compliant applications too.


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