On October 24, 2012, the Privacy Commissioners of Canada,
Alberta and British Columbia issued a joint guidance document on
mobile applications, titled Seizing Opportunity: Good Privacy Practices for
Developing Mobile Apps. The guidance conveniently summarizes
general private sector privacy principles under the Personal
Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) and
the Personal Information Protection Acts of Alberta and British
Columbia in one document, with specific application to the
development of mobile applications (Apps).
The Privacy Commissioners provide tips on making consent more
meaningful in the mobile App environment. Suggestions include:
Layering Information. The first layer of
privacy disclosure could be icons, labels and images that lead to
more detail through hyperlinks.
Privacy Dashboards. Provide tools to display
privacy settings in a way that encourages user action and also
explains the consequence of making a choice.
Colour and sound. Scale colour and sound and
their intensity to the importance of the decision or sensitivity of
Timing of user notice and
consent. Users should not have to search for an Apps
accessible information prior to download. However, disclosure
before download may not be sufficient. Further disclosure to obtain
consent should occur in real time as the information is being
collected so that the user can make a timely choice. For example,
if location information is being collected, a symbol could be used
to indicate to users that this is happening.
The Privacy Commissioners also provide specific guidance with
respect to the collection and use of certain types of personal
information. For example:
Sound, Location and Movement. Collection of
sound and data from the device's location and movement sensors
requires informed consent and must be directly related to the
functionality of the App.
Cameras. Activation of the device camera
requires specific permission of the user.
Device Identifiers. Apps should be designed in
a way that that do not require collection of unique device
identifiers unless that is "essential" to the functioning
of the App.
Third parties. Information about third
parties (e.g. from a contact list) should not be collected without
consent. The Privacy Commissioners do not specify whose
The Privacy Commissioners also state that data should not be
associated across Apps unless it is "necessary" to do so
and "obvious" to the user.
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