19 December 2012

Guest Blog: Privacy Update

The Privacy Blog continues, with news from MEF's Simon Bates on the latest developments in the Privacy in mobile Apps Initiative, and a call for help from MEF members.
You will be aware of the excitement around online privacy. Businesses realised a long time ago that the information they collected from people visiting their sites was valuable to advertisers. Few, though, made it clear that this information was being bought and sold. This led to a public outcry which resulted in ‘Do not Track’ legislation in the USA and the ‘Cookies’ Directive in Europe. 
Legislators are now turning their attention to the mobile app market. If the mobile content and commerce industry doesn’t demonstrate its commitment to protecting consumers’ privacy then governments will act. This will lead to strident new rules that may or may not have the desired effect and will impose an extra layer of red tape on businesses. 
As you’d expect, MEF is leading the charge. The recently released Global Consumer Survey 2012, available for all members to download for free, found that consumer trust remains a key barrier to the uptake of mobile content & commerce, with 35% of the global audience citing it as their primary concern.

MEF launched its Privacy in Mobile Applications Initiative at the inaugural MEF Privacy Summit in Washington DC earlier this year, with the goal of helping the global mobile industry build consumer trust when interacting with mobile apps that collect user data.

Working closely with members who are experts in privacy law and app development, we are well underway with a programme of work that will clearly show that we do care for consumers. That there’s nothing wrong with collecting and sharing data so long as you are transparent about it and let consumers control the way their information is used.

We are building a tool for developers that will help them build best practise privacy right into the design of their app. The simple web-based platform will quiz developers about how their app uses a consumer’s information.

Based on the answers, it will then provide them with:
  • A privacy policy that will make sense to consumers! An easily-digestible description of how the app will use their information so they are able to offer informed consent.
  • A summary analysis of how "privacy-friendly" their app will be. It will identify where the developer falls short of, one, popular app store requirements and, two, industry best practise, and identify simple steps to rectify any issues.
The value of such a tool - free to MEF members - is immediately obvious. We have already formed links with reputable public policy organisations which will help us bring this work to the attention of governments and consumers around the world. We will promote it – and the members involved with its creation – at every available opportunity.

We are extremely grateful to those members, namely;  Addafix, AVG, Coca-Cola, Electronic Arts, Impact Mobile, InMobi, mBlox, Nielsen, OpenMarket, Preiskel & Co, SNR Denton, Turner, UFT and Vodafone, who have already contributed their time and expertise.
But we can always do with more help. 
Specifically, we are looking for members with the skills and capacity to help us build the tool. It is a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate your credentials to the developer community and the mobile industry. Please do get in touch if you are interested in getting involved in this or any other capacity.

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