Several recent stories have highlighted the concerns over
personal information, privacy and the reach of mobile apps. Once
again, the law is labouring to keep up with technology.
So-called Cyber-Stalking Apps
provide the means to track the location of a phone through an app
that is not visible or easily detectable by the phone's owner.
The cloaked app resides on the phone and essentially reports back
to the person who installed the app on the user's whereabouts.
In the US, a proposed law has been drafted to make such apps
illegal (The Location Protection Privacy
Act). This draft legislation moved out of
committee and may become law in 2013.
A number of mobile apps have been criticized for collecting
personal information about kids, and selling that info without
parents' consent. To tackle these problems associated with
mobile apps directed at children, privacy advocates have been
pushing for changes to the rules under COPPA (Children's Online
Privacy Protection Act). The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
amended the Children's Online Privacy
Protection Rule in December 2012. The Rule now
applies to mobile apps and web-based text messaging programs, and
requires app developers to get permission from parents before
collecting a child's photographs, videos and geolocational
information. The amended Rules will become effective on July 1,
It is worth noting that these are both developments under US
law. In Canada, app developers who target children's personal
information would be caught by Canada's broad private-sector
privacy laws, such as the Personal Information Protection and
Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) at the federal level, or one
of the provincial-level privacy laws, such as the Personal
Information Protection Act in Alberta. Cloaked
"cyber-stalking" apps could constitute an invasion of privacy
contrary to Canadian law. However, that would apply to the person
who surreptitiously loaded the stalking app, rather than the app
App developers: Make sure you get advice on a properly-drafted
understand the implications of privacy laws when launching mobile
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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