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Apple signs on to mobile app privacy policy

The California Attorney General announced on Wednesday that it had reached an agreement with six companies, including Apple, Amazon and Google, to mandate individual privacy policies for apps that collect personal information that will allow users to read policies before downloading an app.

In total, the six companies represent the "majority of the mobile apps market," California's Office of the Attorney General said in a statement. Amazon, Apple, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and Research in Motion have all signed the agreement.

According to the statement, the companies have adopted "privacy principles" that will bring them in compliance with the California Online Privacy Protection Act, a law that requires "mobile apps that collect personal information to have a privacy policy."

"This agreement strengthens the privacy protections of California consumers and of millions of people around the globe who use mobile apps," Attorney General Harris said. "By ensuring that mobile apps have privacy policies, we create more transparency and give mobile users more informed control over who accesses their personal information and how it is used."

Harris gathered together the six companies last August to bring up the issue of mobile app privacy policies.

"California has a unique commitment to protecting the privacy of our residents. Our constitution directly guarantees a right to privacy, and we will defend it," Harris added. "Forging this common statement of mobile privacy principles shows the power of collaboration — among government, industry and consumers — to create solutions to problems no one group can tackle alone."

As a result of the new agreement, app buyers will be able to look over privacy policies before purchasing the product. Developers who do not comply with their privacy policies could be prosecuted under California law.

Apple and the other companies have also agreed to educate developers about the new policies. They will also work to offer users tools to report non-compliant apps.

With the rapid rise of the app-driven ecosystem, lawmakers and regulators have stepped in to ensure proper privacy protection. Last summer, the U.S. Senate introduced a bill that would require Apple, Google and application developers to obtain express consent from users before collecting or sharing location information. The proposed legislation came in response to concerns that iOS and Android were improperly collecting user location information.

Apple is currently counting up to its 25 billionth app download and is offering a $10,000 App Store Gift Card to an eligible user who pushes the company past the milestone.

App countdown


The number of applications in the App Store is approaching 600,000. Apple has paid out over $4 billion to App Store developers. One recent study attributed 466,000 new jobs to the creation of the "App Economy" that Apple sparked with the launch of the App Store in 2008.