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
Hubgets – Advanced Collaboration, Enriched Communication

Hubgets – Advanced Collaboration, Enriched Communication

Advanced Collaboration Tool Sponsored series provided in collaboration with Hubgets Collaboration tools have advanced leaps and bounds with the advent of cloud technology, and the services available are only getting better. Promising features such as sophisticated group communication, productive management of tasks and meetings, and the ultimate dream, working remotely from some gorgeous island destination, innovative collaboration…

Verizon To Acquire Yahoo For $4.83 Billion

Verizon To Acquire Yahoo For $4.83 Billion

Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N) said it had agreed to buy Yahoo Inc’s (YHOO.O) core internet business for $4.83 billion in cash, ending a lengthy sale process for the fading Web pioneer. Buying Yahoo’s operations will boost Verizon’s AOL internet business, which it bought last year for $4.4 billion, by giving it access to Yahoo’s advertising…

When Sci-Fi Predictions Come To Fruition

When Sci-Fi Predictions Come To Fruition

Evolution of Technologies To paraphrase science fiction author Arthur C. Clark, those who make predictions about the future are either “considered conservative now and mocked later, or mocked now and proved right when they are no longer around to enjoy the acclaim.” The one thing we can be sure about, Clark ventured, is that “[the…

Facebook Hopes To Extend Internet Connectivity With Solar-Powered Drones

Facebook Hopes To Extend Internet Connectivity With Solar-Powered Drones

Facebook Inc (FB.O) said on Thursday it had completed a successful test flight of a solar-powered drone that it hopes will help it extend internet connectivity to every corner of the planet. Aquila, Facebook’s lightweight, high-altitude aircraft, flew at a few thousand feet for 96 minutes in Yuma, Arizona, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg wrote in…

When Will Women In Tech Become The Norm?

When Will Women In Tech Become The Norm?

Tech Diversity It is well known that the technology industry has been dominated by men, but it is also clear that the industry is working to change that. Diversity in the tech industry, especially where it applies to women in tech, has been a topic of discussion for years. Recently the Washington Technology Industry Association…

Data Breaches: Incident Response Planning – Part 1

Data Breaches: Incident Response Planning – Part 1

Incident Response Planning – Part 1 The topic of cybersecurity has become part of the boardroom agendas in the last couple of years, and not surprisingly — these days, it’s almost impossible to read news headlines without noticing yet another story about a data breach. As cybersecurity shifts from being a strictly IT issue to…

Do Not Rely On Passwords To Protect Your Online Information

Do Not Rely On Passwords To Protect Your Online Information

Password Challenges  Simple passwords are no longer safe to use online. John Barco, vice president of Global Product Marketing at ForgeRock, explains why it’s time the industry embraced more advanced identity-centric solutions that improve the customer experience while also providing stronger security. Since the beginning of logins, consumers have used a simple username and password to…

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…

Cloud Services Providers – Learning To Keep The Lights On

Cloud Services Providers – Learning To Keep The Lights On

The True Meaning of Availability What is real availability? In our line of work, cloud service providers approach availability from the inside out. And in many cases, some never make it past their own front door given how challenging it is to keep the lights on at home let alone factors that are out of…

Protecting Devices From Data Breach: Identity of Things (IDoT)

Protecting Devices From Data Breach: Identity of Things (IDoT)

How to Identify and Authenticate in the Expanding IoT Ecosystem It is a necessity to protect IoT devices and their associated data. As the IoT ecosystem continues to expand, the need to create an identity to newly-connected things is becoming increasingly crucial. These ‘things’ can include anything from basic sensors and gateways to industrial controls…

Most Active Internet Of Things Investors In The Last 5 Years

Most Active Internet Of Things Investors In The Last 5 Years

Most Active Internet Of Things Investors A recent BI Intelligence report claimed that the Internet of Things (IoT) is on its way to becoming the largest device market in the world. Quite naturally, such exponential growth of the IoT market has prompted a number of high-profile corporate investors and smart money VCs to bet highly…

Disaster Recovery – A Thing Of The Past!

Disaster Recovery – A Thing Of The Past!

Disaster Recovery  Ok, ok – I understand most of you are saying disaster recovery (DR) is still a critical aspect of running any type of operations. After all – we need to secure our future operations in case of disaster. Sure – that is still the case but things are changing – fast. There are…

Five Signs The Internet of Things Is About To Explode

Five Signs The Internet of Things Is About To Explode

The Internet of Things Is About To Explode By 2020, Gartner estimates that the Internet of Things (IoT) will generate incremental revenue exceeding $300 billion worldwide. It’s an astoundingly large figure given that the sector barely existed three years ago. We are now rapidly evolving toward a world in which just about everything will become…

Business Analytics Vs Data Science

Business Analytics Vs Data Science

Big Data Continues To Grow Big Data continues to be a much discussed topic of interest and for good reason.  According to a recent report from International Data Corporation (IDC), “worldwide revenues for big data and business analytics will grow from nearly $122 billion in 2015 to more than $187 billion in 2019, an increase…

Big Data and Financial Services – Security Threat or Massive Opportunity?

Big Data and Financial Services – Security Threat or Massive Opportunity?

Big Data and Financial Services Cloud Banking Insights Series focuses on big data in the financial services industry and whether it is a security threat or actually a massive opportunity. How does big data fit into an overall cloud strategy? Most FI’s have a positive mind-set towards cloud IT consumption as it not only enables…

Cloud Computing Is Greener Than You Think

Cloud Computing Is Greener Than You Think

Cloud Computing Is Greener Than You Think Last week we touched upon how a project in Finland had blended two of the world’s most important industries, cloud computing and green technology, to produce a data centre that used nearby sea water to both cool their servers and heat local homes.  Despite such positive environmental projects, there…