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AG Harris Announces Expansion of California's Consumer Privacy Protections to Social Apps as Facebook Signs Apps Agreement


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By: Office of the Attorney General

SAN FRANCISCO, June 22, 2012 - Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced that Facebook has become the seventh company to sign the Joint Statement of Principles to strengthen privacy protections for consumers around the world who use online applications on their smartphones, tablets and other electronic devices. The agreement extends the reach of California's privacy protections beyond mobile apps to include social apps in Facebook's App Center, which are used daily by millions of consumers. Among other protections, the agreement seeks to improve compliance with California law requiring apps that collect personal information to have a privacy policy.

"Consumers deserve to be able to make informed choices about how much personal information they want to share with others when using social apps," said Attorney General Harris. "We are delighted that Facebook has joined Amazon, Apple, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, and Research in Motion to provide consumers with greater control and information about how their personal data is used. We need to protect privacy while we foster innovation."

In a letter to Attorney General Harris released today, Facebook wrote "…we hope that you will consider us a signatory to the Joint Statement." Facebook joins an agreement that was first announced in February when Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc., Google Inc., Hewlett-Packard Company, Microsoft Corporation, and Research in Motion Limited all signed on to a Joint Statement of Principles.

In the letter, Facebook's Chief Privacy Officer Erin M. Egan wrote, "As you know, the Joint Statement's principles embodied essential protections for Californians and others who use mobile apps by encouraging companies that provide mobile app markets to give developers the ability to provide a link to their privacy policies and to display those links along with other app details….As we built the App Center, we were guided by the principles contained in the Joint Statement."

Starting in 2011, Attorney General Harris worked with Amazon, Apple, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, and Research In Motion to forge the Joint Statement to ensure that emerging online technologies such as mobile apps comply with California's Online Privacy Protection Act (Simitian, 2004). The Act requires operators of commercial web sites and online services, including mobile and social apps, who collect personally identifiable information about Californians to conspicuously post a privacy policy. The posting of a privacy policy promotes transparency and provides consumers with more informed control over their personal information. Today's agreement recognizes the Facebook App Center's role as a clearinghouse for a variety of social apps.

A letter from the Attorney General's Office to Facebook said, "California law requires all operators of commercial web sites and online services, including mobile and social apps, who collect personally identifiable information about Californians to conspicuously post a privacy policy. We are very pleased that Facebook has incorporated the Principles into the design of the App Center and that Facebook requires, as a condition of participating in the App Center, that developers submit a link to a privacy policy. We are also pleased to see that Facebook is prominently displaying the link to an app's privacy policy in the App Center, and is implementing a means to report and remediate privacy issues."

In addition to signing the Joint Statement, Facebook will participate in a multi-stakeholder Advisory Group on Mobile Privacy Practices that the Attorney General's Office and the California Office of Privacy Protection have convened to develop best practices for mobile privacy generally and to develop model mobile privacy policies in particular.

Copies of both letters are attached to the electronic version of this release at: http://oag.ca.gov/news

The February 2012 press release announcing the apps agreement can be found here: http://oag.ca.gov/news/press-releases/attorney-general-kamala-d-harris-secures-global-agreement-strengthen-privacy

 

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