Same Issues, New Devices: Is Smartphone App Privacy Groundhog Day for Regulators?
13 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2013
Date Written: June 4, 2013
In this article we explore how self-regulation by the advertising industry has failed to address the exploitation of users’ personal information for targeted advertising through the use of smartphone application (app) permissions. Currently smartphone apps are posing a privacy risk of which users are largely unaware. Personal information can be accessed when app permissions make requests to use phone functions that are unnecessary for the operation of the app. These can include access to users’ contact lists, emails and calendars and are sought by advertising networks, rather than the app developer. They can then surreptitiously gather personal user data to serve targeted advertising, but also to sell to other advertising networks and online businesses. Recent market research emphasising consumer trust and loyalty as a key asset for online businesses provides an opportunity for a change in the regulation of the advertising industry. We argue that the lack of transparency and self-regulatory enforcement demonstrated by app permission exploitation shows the potential for continued circumvention of privacy regulation by an industry with expertise in technological development and driven by profit. We therefore argue in favour of the introduction of co-regulation to provide the monitoring and enforcement powers that are clearly lacking in a continued reliance on self-regulation.
Keywords: privacy, advertising, regulation, smartphone apps
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