Mobile operators agree to new app privacy rules

Mobile World Congress: Europe’s biggest mobile operators, including Telefónica, Orange and Vodafone, have agreed new rules to protect consumers inadvertently divulging too much of their personal data when using apps.

Mobile Apps

The guidelines, devised by global telecoms body GSMA, aim to ensure user privacy is “respected and protected” by companies that build applications.

It follows an announcement last week that Google, Apple, Amazon, Research in Motion, HP and Microsoft, have agreed to new privacy guidelines that will prevent apps collecting data without prior consent from users.

The GSMA says it hopes other companies in the mobile ecosystem, such as advertisers and device makers, will follow the lead of mobile operators and agree to implement the guidelines.

Orange’s group director of marketing, Jean-Marie Culpin, says: “As more and more of our customers reap the benefits of what the digital age has to offer, Orange is here not only to provide these opportunities, but to support, guide and protect them on this journey of discovery.”

Concerns about app privacy have heightened in recent months after apps such as Hipster and Path admitted to obtaining users’ address books without prior consent and subsequently had to change their software.

A Sunday Times report earlier this month also claimed that Facebook had admitted to reading users’ text messages via its mobile app, although the social network responded to the allegations by saying that while it could read SMS data it would not do so.

The GSMA guidelines, published following a public consultation, include illustrative examples that intend to drive a more consistent approach to user privacy across mobile apps and encourage innovation in the development of privacy controls so that users fully understand and consent to elements of their personal data being shared.

The guidance states that all apps must clearly state the personal information it will access and whether it will be shared to third parties at the download stage.

It also says that social networking apps must be able to make it easy for users to completely remove all their data from their sites if they want to delete their accounts.

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