Mobile Apps Privacy Policy Screenshot

More than 60 percent of mobile apps that collect data come with a privacy policy.

The Future of Privacy Forum has released the results of a study that looked at privacy policies in mobile apps. FPF, along with the Center for Democracy and Technology, recently shared a list of best practices for privacy policies within mobile applications. Justin Brookman, the director of the CDT, explained that the organizations are interested in helping developers learn to protect and respect the sensitive customer data received through their apps without stifling their innovation and creativity.

A privacy policy makes companies legally responsible for what is done with the collected data and explains to users how the data is being used. It allows potential users to make an informed decision before choosing to install and use the app. In the past, websites faced the same challenges at creating privacy policies that mobile apps now face, acknowledged Jules Polonetsky, co-director of the FPF.

Privacy policies are on the rise in the app market. According to AdWeek, the percentage of free apps with a privacy policy in the iOS app store went from 40 percent to 64 percent between September 2011 and June 2012. Free apps with a privacy policy in Google's Play store increased from 70 percent to 76 percent in the same time frame. Paid iOS apps saw smaller gains, starting at 60 percent and ending at 64 percent. Paid apps in the Play store increased from 30 percent to 48 percent.

The study also found that 61.3 percent of the 150 apps studied across all three app stores considered (iTunes, Google Play and the Kindle Fire store) came with privacy policies. Free apps were 16 percent more likely to include a privacy policy than paid apps.

Not every app offered the its privacy policy from the landing page in the app store. 22.7 percent of free apps and 20 percent of paid apps offer the privacy policy in the app store. 48 percent of free and 32 percent of paid apps in all stores displayed the privacy policy within the app or through a link in the app. Privacy policies not in the app, according to FPF, force users to search the web to find the app's privacy policy.

The FPF released the study days before a government committee met to discuss consumer privacy laws.

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