Windows Store Will Debut with Strong Privacy Requirements for App Developers

Microsoft’s forthcoming application storefront for Windows 8 applications will feature robust mobile app developer privacy requirements when it debuts in February 2012.  Microsoft just unveiled its Windows Store Developer Agreement, with which app developers must comply with to make their apps available for purchase or download from the Windows Store. The Developer Agreement states:

 If your app enables access to and the use of any Internet-based services, or otherwise collects or transmits any user’s personal information, you must maintain a privacy policy. You are responsible for informing customers of your privacy policy (including by submitting that policy to us for display to customers). Your privacy policy must (i) comply with applicable laws and regulations, (ii) inform users of the information collected by your app and how that information is used, stored, secured and disclosed, and (iii) describe the controls that users have over the use and sharing of their information, and how they may access their information. If your app uses the geolocation, texting/SMS, webcam or microphone capabilities, you must also provide access to your privacy policy in the app’s settings as displayed in the Windows settings charm.

From the looks of the Developer Agreement, Microsoft has taken steps to address some of the most urgent privacy concerns that are surfacing in the mobile app ecosystem.  The privacy policy mandate for Internet-based apps would be an important step forward, as many of the most popular apps do not currently have a privacy policy. Microsoft’s Developer Agreement also explicitly requires apps that use geolocation and other device features (camera, microphone, or SMS capabilities) to provide access to the developer’s privacy policy from those settings.

An interesting question to consider is whether the leadership stance Microsoft has taken with regard to user privacy will elicit further action from two leading platform providers in mobile app distribution: Google and Apple.  As the mobile app market continues to grow, the respective operators of the largest app marketplaces have continually pushed one another forward by deploying platform improvements and enhanced functionality.  The technical innovation has been impressive.  But a few recent discoveries have drawn attention to the staggering (and often times unnecessary) amount of information that an app can potentially access.  With the app marketplace set to become even more competitive with the addition of the Windows Store, the assurance of user privacy could prove to be a key differentiator that inspires other major players to step up their games.

Read more about the Windows Stores developer agreement privacy requirements at Jim Brock’s (PrivacyChoice) blog.

 

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