The government wants to give you greater control of app privacy and data tracking

iPhone 5 (folder with 16 apps)

We don’t often discuss U.S. government action when it comes to iPhone apps. But proposed legislation in Washington has iOS app advertisers up in arms and could even curtail future app development. Known as the “Apps Act”, the measure ostensibly is aimed at protecting the privacy of consumers downloading a growing number of apps on mobile devices.

Per voluntary guidelines, Apps Act will require apps to get explicit permission from you before acquiring your name and email address. Among the areas targeted in the US House of Representatives proposal by Georgia Democrat Hank Johnson is requiring app devs to explain how your data will be used and what third parties can access it.

These steps are largely positive and one component of the proposed new regulation is particularly interesting as it would give your the right to delete your personal data used by advertisers…

While the privacy of children using apps has recently become an issue, the concern is focused on one provision of the proposal that could stall app development.

The problem?

“App development is funded in large part by the ads that run on apps” downloaded, notes the BusinessInsider Friday.

These so-called in-app advertisements often track user behavior for long periods of time, building a profile of consumers. Giving users the ability to delete their personal data from the apps could blunt the effectiveness of any app-based advertising campaign.

iOS 6 has fairly limited tools to limit ad tracking. In iOS 6.1, a new Reset Advertising Identifier button has been added to Advertising Settings. In case you’re wondering, the Advertising Identifier is a new non-permanent, non-personal, device identifier that advertising networks use to track your behavior.

Hitting that new Reset Advertising Identifier button in iOS 6.1 Settings basically resets its value so that future requests will return a different value.

reset ad id

Curiously enough, the e-commerce trade association NetChoice now asks Congress to allow voluntary self-regulation. According to the group’s website, it works to “protect the free operation of e-commerce” and its members include Facebook, eBay and Yahoo.

The problem with voluntary regulation of the gathering and storage of in-app personal data is that it’s a wolf guarding the hen house situation. While developers want consumers to feel secure downloading their apps, companies producing the online material must also cater to advertisers, who often help pay for the production.


As we reported Thursday, tablets – particularly the iPad – are highly-prized platforms for mobile advertisers. It’s questionable whether companies can both guard user privacy while keeping personal data available for advertisers.

Depending on your viewpoint, the advantage or problem with the current divided government is that proposals which start on one side of the U.S. Congress frequently die in the opposing chamber.

That’s not to say that privacy in apps shouldn’t be better regulated than it is now.

We should pursue an environment where all mobile users, regardless of the platform, don’t have to worry about these things knowing no app can access their private data, contact list, calendars, reminders, photo library or other personal information without requiring explicit approval from you, the user.

What’s your position on this issue?