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An App With No Privacy Policy? There's a Fine for That in CA

By Deanne Katz, Esq. on November 07, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Requiring mobile applications and websites to have a privacy policy is nothing new, but California is putting some teeth into its requirement by threatening to fine companies that don't comply.

California's regulations have a fairly wide reach, affecting any company that does business in the state or has users who live in California. Not only are those companies required to have a privacy policy, they must also publish it conspicuously on their website and/or app so that users can find it.

The regulations aren't new; California first passed the law dictating privacy policies in 2003 as the California Online Privacy Protection Act (CalOPPA). Last week, they started forcing companies to fall in line.

The California Attorney General's office is now sending letters to companies that are not currently in compliance with the law, reports MediaPost News.

The businesses are being given 30 days to comply with the law. If they don't have easy-to-find privacy policies by then, they could face a steep fine: Each download of their product could cost a non-compliant company up to $2,500. Per download.

While California is acting as if the law applies to smartphones and mobile apps, that's not necessarily a given fact.

CalOPPA predates smartphones and apps as we know them. It requires privacy policies on a website, something that many of the allegedly non-compliant companies already have. What they don't have is a separate privacy policy on their mobile app.

If the website isn't "reasonably accessible" from the app, then it doesn't meet the law's requirements, says California Attorney General Kamala Harris. But it's possible that companies will challenge her interpretation if fines are levied.

California isn't the only governing body that's ramping up its privacy protection for consumers.

Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission introduced its "privacy by design" standard. It encourages companies to build privacy into their products rather than adding it on at the end. The idea is that this method will make privacy a primary concern for developers.

These changes to the law could be important to your tech-savvy clients, even if they aren't currently facing compliance issues. For more advice on how these issues can be incorporated into a legal marketing strategy to boost your firm's bottom line, contact a FindLaw Consultant near you to get started.

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