Privacy Protections Apply to Apps, Too!

By November 20, 2012Uncategorized
In 2003, California became the first state in the nation to pass an online privacy protection act.  The California Online Privacy Protection Act of 2003 (COPPA) requires operators of commercial websites, which collect any identifiable information from a site user in California, to clearly post a privacy policy on each page of their site.  We often counsel clients who are developing a commercial website that they must comply with this requirement because, unlike many laws currently on the books, California has taken an active role in enforcing this law in recent years.

 

While reading Bloomberg News recently, this message was reinforced when I noticed a headline targeting Fortune 500 companies for their failure to comply with COPPA.  However, in an interesting and timely twist, the California Attorney General’s Office is not targeting these companies, including United Airlines and OpenTable, for their websites – they are now focusing on their mobile applications.

 

As more of our clients develop mobile apps to compliment their businesses we realize that they may not be aware of this requirement.  California’s Attorney General is only giving businesses 30 days to comply with the law before assessing fines of $2,500 for each app loaded.  For a company like United Airlines, they may be able to afford to amass these fines; however, for many small businesses the potential liability could prove crippling.  We advise our clients to spend the time and resources needed to protect themselves on the front end, by having a privacy policy drafted for their website or mobile app, to avoid potentially devastating liability down the road.  If you are considering development of a mobile app, as a compliment to your business or as a business itself, be sure to discuss the COPPA requirements with an attorney knowledgeable in this area.