California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris this week began putting top mobile app makers on notice that they will be held accountable for how they handle Californians’ personal information.
Harris initially targeted the most popular mobile apps, among them Open Table and apps for Delta and United Airlines.
Delta released a statement that said: “We have received the letter from the Attorney General and intend to provide the requested information.”]
Open Table did not respond to requests for comment.
“Protecting the privacy of online consumers is a serious law enforcement matter,” Harris said in a written statement. “We have worked hard to ensure that app developers are aware of their legal obligations to respect the privacy of Californians, but it is critical that we take all necessary steps to enforce California’s privacy laws.”
Harris is looking to close a privacy loophole with the explosion in the use of mobile devices to access the Web. She is extending privacy protections required by state law for personal computers to smartphones and tablets.
She has secured the voluntary cooperation of industry leaders including Facebook. Harris does not technically have the authority to write new rules for mobile apps. Instead, she’s broadly interpreting a 2004 state law that requires “online services” that collect personal information from consumers to have privacy policies.
Last February, her office brokered a deal with six of the largest companies running mobile app stores. Under the deal, Apple, Google, Amazon.com, Microsoft, Research in Motion and Hewlett-Packard each agreed to post information on how their mobile apps collect and share consumer data.
Even though the mandate affects only apps that collect personal information from Californians, Harris’ efforts have reached farther.
“We are still in the phase of raising awareness,” LeBlanc said at the time. “We don’t want to squelch innovation. But there will be a point at which we take significant actions.”
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