Mobile App Policy Violations – How Serious Is The Problem?

Mobile App Policy Violations – How Serious Is The Problem?

Mobile App Policy Violations – How Serious is the Problem?

The recent furore around SnapChat and its supposed policy violations has once again thrust the issue of mobile data privacy and security into the spotlight.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently levelled a long list of charges against the popular photo and video sharing app. The list included accusations that videos sent through Snapchat were easily accessible by plugging a phone into a computer, that users could preserve images by taking screenshots, that the app tracked the geo-location of Android users, and that numerous security flaws allowed attackers to easy access usernames and phone numbers.

CloudTweaks - Mobile

All of these accusations directly contradict the alleged features that have made SnapChat so popular; the app has grown its user-base on the understanding that sent media was a) private and b) would be deleted within a few seconds of being viewed.

For their part, SnapChat have not formally admitted culpability and used a recent blog post to claim that they “have resolved most of those concerns over the past year by improving the wording of [their] privacy policy, app description, and in-app just-in-time notifications” – adding that they remain committed to investing in security and counter-abuse measures.

SnapChat may be forgiven for initially underestimating how popular the app would become, and although the FTC’s judgement means SnapChat now faces twenty years of scrutiny, it is at least commendable that the company has addressed the concerns head-on.

Perhaps more importantly than the individual case of SnapChat, the revelations have raised wider concerns about which other mobile apps might be in breach of their purported terms and conditions.

Creating apps is becoming an increasingly accessible hobby for the masses, with the point-and-click nature of development meaning that people who have little skill in programming are now able to design content in a way that was previously impossible. It would be naïve to suggest that all these new developers have the necessary technical proficiency to insert the requisite privacy notices to alert users to the many potential privacy pitfalls that await them.

As the SnapChat case highlights, even skilled and knowledgeable developers struggle to correctly code multiple languages to fulfil their legal obligation for a comprehensive privacy protection policy. They can easily find themselves in trouble if their app uses or shares personal data, geo-locations, audio content, or video content without it being fully highlighted to a user.

SnapChat isn’t the first company to fall foul of the FTC. In 2011 the iOS social networking app ‘Path’ was charged with engaging in deceptive business practices by claiming in its privacy policy that it only collected information such as the user’s IP address, operating system, browser type and site activity when in reality they were collecting and storing information as diverse as users’ address books, phone numbers, email addresses, Facebook usernames, Twitter usernames, and dates of birth. The incident cost the developers a mammoth $800,000 in civil penalties.

A year later Delta Airlines found themselves in the crosshairs as the California attorney general opened proceedings over their app’s “non-existent privacy policy” with Justin Brookman (Director of Consumer Privacy at the Centre for Democracy and Technology) taking to Twitter to claim that the company could face up to $2.5 billion in penalties.

So what can be done? Governments around the world have long-since introduced legislation to try and combat the problem of opaque and difficult-to-understand privacy policies, but it is clear that with almost 2,000,000 apps across Apple’s and Google’s stores, monitoring and managing all of them is impossible.

There are also numerous courses and training programs that developers can attend, but again, it is unreasonable to expect casual ‘bedroom’ developers to go to such lengths for apps that they know might only be downloaded a handful of times, if at all.

It seems that at the moment the threat of fines, loss of revenue, and public embarrassment remains the best deterrent. It was reported that SnapChat turned down multi-billion dollar offers from both Facebook and Google in late 2013, offers that are unlikely to resurface now the brand has become significantly more toxic and users are slowly abandoning it. It should serve as a lesson to all budding developers.

By Daniel Price

About Daniel Price

Daniel is a Manchester-born UK native who has abandoned cold and wet Northern Europe and currently lives on the Caribbean coast of Mexico. A former Financial Consultant, he now balances his time between writing articles for several industry-leading tech (CloudTweaks.com & MakeUseOf.com), sports, and travel sites and looking after his three dogs.

Find out more
View All Articles

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.

Comic
InformationWeek Reveals Top 125 Vendors Taking the Technology Industry by Storm

InformationWeek Reveals Top 125 Vendors Taking the Technology Industry by Storm

InformationWeek Reveals Top 125 Vendors Five-part series details companies to watch across five essential technology sectors SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 27, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — InformationWeek released its list of “125 Vendors to Watch” in 2017. Selected by InformationWeek’s expert editorial team, the companies listed fall into one of five key themes: infrastructure, security, cloud, data management and…

Part 1 – Connected Vehicles: Paving The Way For IoT On Wheels

Part 1 – Connected Vehicles: Paving The Way For IoT On Wheels

Connected Vehicles From cars to combines, the IoT market potential of connected vehicles is so expansive that it will even eclipse that of the mobile phone. Connected personal vehicles will be the final link in a fully connected IoT ecosystem. This is an incredibly important moment to capitalize on given how much time people spend…

Embedded Sensors and the Wearable Personal Cloud

Embedded Sensors and the Wearable Personal Cloud

The Wearable Personal Cloud Wearable tech is one avenue of technology that’s encouraging cloud connections and getting us all onto interconnected networks, and with the continued miniaturization and advancement of computing the types of wearable tech are always expanding and providing us with new opportunities. A few years ago, smartwatches were rather clunky devices with…

SWIFT Says Bank Hacks Set To Increase

SWIFT Says Bank Hacks Set To Increase

Bank Hacks Set To Increase SWIFT, whose messaging network is used by banks to send payment instructions worth trillions of dollars each day, said three clients were hacked over the summer and cyber attacks on banks are set to increase. The theft of $81 million in February from Bangladesh’s central bank using SWIFT messages rocked…

Security: Avoiding A Hatton Garden-Style Data Center Heist

Security: Avoiding A Hatton Garden-Style Data Center Heist

Data Center Protection In April 2015, one of the world’s biggest jewelry heists occurred at the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company in London. Posing as workmen, the criminals entered the building through a lift shaft and cut through a 50cm-thick concrete wall with an industrial power drill. Once inside, the criminals had free and unlimited…

Get Ready For Virtual Reality and the Cloud

Get Ready For Virtual Reality and the Cloud

Virtual Reality Cloud We’re lucky to live in an era where virtual reality is no longer relegated to the confines of a sci-fi movie universe. Thanks to technology introduced by products like Oculus Rift, consumers now have access to virtual environments with fully immersive graphic capabilities. As a result, companies have only just begun to…

Digital Transformation: Not Just For Large Enterprises Anymore

Digital Transformation: Not Just For Large Enterprises Anymore

Digital Transformation Digital transformation is the acceleration of business activities, processes, and operational models to fully embrace the changes and opportunities of digital technologies. The concept is not new; we’ve been talking about it in one way or another for decades: paperless office, BYOD, user experience, consumerization of IT – all of these were stepping…

HOW THE CFAA RULING AFFECTS INDIVIDUALS AND PASSWORD-SHARING

HOW THE CFAA RULING AFFECTS INDIVIDUALS AND PASSWORD-SHARING

Individuals and Password-Sharing With the 1980s came the explosion of computing. In 1980, the Commodore ushered in the advent of home computing. Time magazine declared 1982 was “The Year of the Computer.” By 1983, there were an estimated 10 million personal computers in the United States alone. As soon as computers became popular, the federal government…

5 THINGS TO CONSIDER ABOUT YOUR NEXT ENTERPRISE FILE SHARING SOLUTION

5 THINGS TO CONSIDER ABOUT YOUR NEXT ENTERPRISE FILE SHARING SOLUTION

Enterprise File Sharing Solution Businesses have varying file sharing needs. Large, multi-regional businesses need to synchronize folders across a large number of sites, whereas small businesses may only need to support a handful of users in a single site. Construction or advertising firms require sharing and collaboration with very large (several Gigabytes) files. Financial services…

What You Need To Know About Choosing A Cloud Service Provider

What You Need To Know About Choosing A Cloud Service Provider

Selecting The Right Cloud Services Provider How to find the right partner for cloud adoption on an enterprise scale The cloud is capable of delivering many benefits, enabling greater collaboration, business agility, and speed to market. Cloud adoption in the enterprise has been growing fast. Worldwide spending on public cloud services will grow at a…

Moving Your Enterprise Apps To The Cloud Is A Business Decision

Moving Your Enterprise Apps To The Cloud Is A Business Decision

Moving Your Enterprise Apps Whether it be enterprise apps or any other, if there is any heavy data that is going to be transacted in and through an app, then affiliating it with the Cloud becomes a must. And then an important question arises: How do you decide when to integrate your enterprise app with…

10 Trending US Cities For Tech Jobs And Startups

10 Trending US Cities For Tech Jobs And Startups

10 Trending US Cities For Tech Jobs And Startups Traditionally actors headed for Hollywood while techies made a beeline for Silicon Valley. But times are changing, and with technological job opportunities expanding (Infographic), new hotspots are emerging that offer fantastic opportunities for tech jobs and startup companies in the industry. ZipRecruiter, an online recruitment and job…

The Cloud Is Not Enough! Why Businesses Need Hybrid Solutions

The Cloud Is Not Enough! Why Businesses Need Hybrid Solutions

Why Businesses Need Hybrid Solutions Running a cloud server is no longer the novel trend it once was. Now, the cloud is a necessary data tier that allows employees to access vital company data and maintain productivity from anywhere in the world. But it isn’t a perfect system — security and performance issues can quickly…

Utilizing Digital Marketing Techniques Via The Cloud

Utilizing Digital Marketing Techniques Via The Cloud

Digital Marketing Trends In the past, trends in the exceptionally fast-paced digital marketing arena have been quickly adopted or abandoned, keeping marketers and consumers on their toes. 2016 promises a similarly expeditious temperament, with a few new digital marketing offerings taking center stage. According to Gartner’s recent research into Digital Marketing Hubs, brands plan to…

SaaS And The Cloud Are Still Going Strong

SaaS And The Cloud Are Still Going Strong

SaaS And The Cloud With the results of Cisco Global Could Index: 2013-2018 and Hosting and Cloud Study 2014, predictions for the future of cloud computing are notable. Forbes reported that spending on infrastructure-related services has increased as public cloud computing uptake spreads, and reflected on Gartner’s Public Cloud Services Forecast. The public cloud service…

Disaster Recovery And The Cloud

Disaster Recovery And The Cloud

Disaster Recovery And The Cloud One of the least considered benefits of cloud computing in the average small or mid-sized business manager’s mind is the aspect of disaster recovery. Part of the reason for this is that so few small and mid-size businesses have ever contemplated the impact of a major disaster on their IT…