Articles for September 2015

Personal information collected *is* the product

Do you read the privacy policy for an app or website your child uses? I do.  I don’t enjoy reading privacy policies written in cryptic legalese but I force myself to do it.  The least I want to know is how collected information will be monetized.  Is it going to be used to sell me another product or to sell my information to third parties? Selling information to third parties raises my concern, for obvious reasons.

Check out the results of  global project about personal information collected.  If you have not read privacy policies in the past, these results may make you see why it is in your interest to do so.  29 data regulators reviewed apps and websites either designed for children or popular with children.  These efforts were part of The Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN) “Privacy Sweep”.

About the GPEN Privacy Sweep

The goals of the Sweep initiative included: increasing public and business awareness of privacy rights and responsibilities; encouraging compliance with privacy legislation; identifying concerns that may be addressed with targeted education and/or enforcement; and enhancing cooperation amongst privacy enforcement authorities.

What are the concerns raised?

Privacy Ranking

I am sad to see that 71%  of websites and apps don’t even offer a way to delete an account once it is created.  67% of  sites and apps reviewed do collect personal information from children.

Why is that? It is clear to me that information collected is the product.  Information through relevant advertisements turns in to money.  Have people given up on making money by selling  apps? It seems that the main source of revenue is advertising, and not just for free apps but also for paid apps.  Advertising without collecting personal information cannot be relevant, and hence is ineffective.  So you need personal information to make advertisements; a vicious cycle.  On a positive not,e at least 31% had some control in place to limit information collected.  24% encouraged parental involvement, which is also a good sign.  We need more apps and websites that behave like this.

Let’s look at US specific findings as part of this global project.  Bureau of Consumer Protection reviewed total 364 apps.  Review included 183 apps from Apple’s store and 181 apps from Google’s store.  45% of the apps reviewed had a direct link on the app store to their privacy policy.  Yet, 38 apps had privacy policy placed in hard-to-find places.  So, in essence, only 35% of the apps had a direct link to their privacy policy.  Quite alarming.  Also many apps did not inform parents about the app’s features to collect personal information.

I understand that developing software is difficult, and we need a way to monetize our efforts.  For us at “designX6” it is a simple decision.  We make money by selling software, not by selling advertisements in our software.  As an example,the  Hallows Thieves game we created in 2012 has no advertisements, or in-app purchases.  We also do not collect any user information.  Over the last few months we worked on a new version of this app, keeping our philosophy of “sell apps, not personal information.”

Pay one price, and play the game on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch with our Universal app release.  We have some improved animations this time for ghosts and candies.  We hope you will like our spin on these characters in the game.  Go get the Hallows Thieves from the app store this Halloween, and rest assured that the app will not collect any personal information from users–simple as that.

Lot of us are willing to buy an app for ad-free browsing

It is clear that there many people do not like ads on the web pages we browse on our iOS devices. Apps which provides ad-free browsing experience are always in top 10 paid app list.  The iOS9 release included “Content Blocker API” made it possible to create such apps.

iPhone top 10

As you can see, “Crystal” and “Purify Blocker” apps are still in the list.  Marco Arment though decided to pull his app Peace from the store.  For 36 hours, “Peace” was at the  number 1 position in the top paid app category.

Is this just a fad? Or is there a clear message for content creators who depend on ad revenue to figure out another model? What you think?

iPad top 10