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BizReport : Law & Regulation : July 22, 2013

Research: Proposed app short-form privacy notice categories confusing

The mobile app short-form notice currently proposed by the Department of Commerce's privacy multi-stakeholder process will be confusing to consumers, according to new research released by Carnegie Mellon University.

by Helen Leggatt

The current draft notice lists data categories for which mobile apps must provide notice. However, when Carnegie Mellon researchers questioned 800 consumers about the terms used, "participants had low agreement on how different data and entities should be classified".

The latest draft of the code was released in June and outlines what short-form privacy notices should contain including the type of user data being collected and whether it is shared with others.

An example of how the problem exhibits itself was contained with the Carnegie Mellon research 'Is Your Inseam a Biometric? Evaluating the Understandability of Mobile Privacy Notice Categories'. Using a fictional app called HipClothes, which requires that users provide body measurements and their location, study participants were asked whether such data collected would be construed as "biometrics" or "health information".

No-one, including four experts included in the study, was able to agree on a characterization for the collected data ("biometrics" or "health information") and, indeed, the study suggests that neither description is correct.

Speaking to Online Media Daily, Lorrie Cranor, a computer scientist who oversaw the Carnegie Mellon research said, "These terms are somewhat problematic. They're not well-defined, even the experts weren't sure how to apply them.

"When you have a bunch of lawyers and policy people coming up with the consumer tools, they're not going to come up with something that is necessarily usable," Cranor added.

Image via Shutterstock

Tags: mobile apps, privacy, regulation, research

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