App Developers and Consumer Groups Introduce App Transparency Screens

Washington, D.C. (November 30, 2012) – Today, the Application Developers Alliance along with the American Civil Liberties Union, Consumer Action, and World Privacy Forum announced the first joint industry-consumer proposal to improve and standardize apps’ communications with consumers regarding data that apps are collecting from users and sharing with third parties. The groups developed and presented standardized screens that, when displayed by apps, will inform users what data is being collected by an app with whom it is being shared. Additionally, the screens will link to more traditional “privacy policies,” which generally are very long legal documents that provide much more detail about why data is being used and how it is being secured.

The transparency screens, which will be unveiled at the multi-stakeholder discussion on mobile app transparency coordinated by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), represent a joint effort by app developers and consumer advocates to encourage voluntary standards that will benefit consumers and the app economy.

“Alliance members were eager to work with consumer advocates on this effort to assist consumers and promote innovation, and we appreciate the Administration’s commitment to consensus and progress. We are proud to present with our partners a consensus starting point for further discussions with more of our industry, public-interest, and government stakeholders,” said Jon Potter, President of the Application Developers Alliance.

"This is just a beginning, but it's a beginning I can get behind. I would like to see this positive combined effort move through to the finish line,” said Pam Dixon, Executive Director of the World Privacy Forum.

“While we know that transparency is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of protecting privacy on mobile devices, it is nonetheless a crucial piece of the puzzle.” said Michelle De Mooy, Senior Associate at Consumer Action. “These screens offer a way for consumers to have a real choice when it comes to determining how much of their data they are willing to exchange for an app.” De Mooy added that the collaborative process between the consumer groups and the Alliance has shown that finding balanced, real-world solutions to consumer privacy protection is possible.

The transparency screens [linked] would be displayed by the app, rather than by the platform or in the marketplace, and would be voluntary. The groups presented four versions of the screens, all of which answer two key questions for consumers:

1)    What data might this app collect?

2)    What third parties might this app share the data with?

Members of the Application Developers Alliance, including Bennett Richardson, Co-founder of Hinge and Michael Mayernick, Co-founder of Spinnakr, joined in the presentation.

The screens also contain design input from app developers collected by the Application Developers Alliance during its 10-city Privacy Summit Series over the last several months. The final Privacy Summit was held in Washington, D.C. on Thursday evening. For more developers’ recommendations for app privacy, read the report from the Summit Series.  

Find out what app developers and other stakeholders are saying about the proposal.

About The Application Developers Alliance

The Application Developers Alliance is an industry association dedicated to meeting the unique needs of application developers as creators, innovators, and entrepreneurs. Alliance members include more than 15,000 individual application developers and dozens of companies, investors, and stakeholders in the apps ecosystem.