If passed, Mobile Device Privacy Act will make every app ask before taking data

September 14, 2012
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Over the last couple of years, we’ve had quite a few proposed bills that tried to sneak into becoming law before the public knew about them. You may remember them as ACTA, PIPA, and the ringleader, SOPA. What all these bills had in common is that they threatened to restrict regular internet users severely. So it is no surprise the whole world hated them. Very recently, a new bill was introduced that actually turns the tables. It’s called the Mobile Device Privacy Act.

One thing we’ve all come to grips with is that companies take our personal data. Google uses our data to feed us adds. Malicious applications use it to feed us Spam. Facebook uses it to see if there are people “we might know” and to feed us even more ads. The Mobile Device Privacy Act looks to stop all this nearly-anonymous data grabbing by forcing companies to make users aware that their information is being taken. In a nutshell, if they want your info, they actually have to go through you to get it.

How does the Mobile Device Privacy Act affect me?

To put it simply, all mobile applications would have to ask you for permission to your data before they take it. There are many services that already do this and you should be familiar with at least a few of them. Facebook does it (pictured above) and so does Twitter. The Mobile Device Privacy Act would, essentially, require all applications to do this. If you need an example of an application that didn’t do this, look no further than the infamous Carrier IQ.

If made law, the bill incorporates harsh punishments for those who break it. It is a $1000 fine if you unknowingly break it and up to $3000USD if you knowingly break it. This may not seem like much. However, that fine is levied per infraction. Additionally, an infraction is incurred each time you perform it, even if its on the same person. So, hypothetically, say 1000 people download your app and that app steals data from them four times each. That’s 4000 infractions, multiplied by 3000, for a grand total of $12 million.

There are still a lot of details being worked out, but this bill seems to be one that consumers want passed. It’s our data, we should know when people are taking it. What do you think?

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