OAIC cautions over app privacy policies

Not enough Australian iOS apps provide adequate privacy policies, OAIC says

Privacy Commissioner Timothy Pilgrim has urged Australian businesses and government agencies to improve their act when it comes to their mobile apps.

A study of 53 iOS apps by Office of the Australian Information Commissioner revealed that 70 per cent of them don't provide users with a privacy policy before the app is downloaded.

"This is not good privacy practice," Pilgrim said in a statement. "Organisations must have a clearly expressed and up to date privacy policy that tells people how their personal information will be managed.

"A user can't make an informed decision about whether they should download an app if they aren’t told up front what personal information that app will collect and how it will use, store and protect that information."

Close to a quarter of the apps examined, which were produced by or on behalf of Australian businesses or government organisations, "did not appear to have privacy communications that were tailored for a small screen," an OAIC statement said.

Only 15 per cent of the apps examined by the OAIC clearly explained how they would use personal information.

The research was part of the annual Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN) Privacy Sweep. The Privacy Sweep took place in May and drew together 26 privacy authorities from around the world, including the OAIC.

Along with the OAIC, the Office of the Victorian Privacy Commissioner; the Office of the Information Commissioner, Queensland; the Information and Privacy Commission, New South Wales; the Northern Territory Information Commissioner are all members of GPEN.

The OAIC produces a guide for mobile app developers about privacy best practices.

Read more: Sweeping security law would have computer users surrender privacy

The federal government revealed in the budget that the OAIC will be closed down. From the start of 2015 a new organisation called the Office of the Privacy Commissioner will take over the Privacy Act related functions of the OAIC.

Follow Rohan on Twitter: @rohan_p

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