The California law requires commercial operators of websites and online services to conspicuously post detailed privacy policies which inform consumers of the personal information that is collected from them and how that information will be used. Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §§ 22575-22579. Although it is a California state law, it has ramifications for all app developers because the law applies to any operator of a website or online service that collects personally identifiable information about consumers residing in California. Personally identifiable information includes name, address, e-mail address, telephone number, social security number, and any other identifier that permits contacting a specific individual. California law provides for fines up to $2500 per noncompliant app that is downloaded by a California consumer. Id. at § 17200, et. al.
As smartphones and tablets have become ubiquitous, advertising has naturally shifted to these new technology platforms. An increasingly popular tool for reaching out to consumers is to distribute free mobile apps that consumers can use to receive information about an advertiser’s product. Both federal and state regulators, including the Federal Trade Commission, have expressed concerns that advertisers and other distributors of mobile apps have been using these apps for collecting and using personal information of consumers without providing adequate notice of such activities.