1. An open source privacy policy for mobile apps


    Today, Docracy is proud to present an open source privacy policy for mobile apps. We started this project to help developers comply with the law while maintaining transparent, trust-inspiring user practices. We created three versions (for generic, ad-supported and location-based apps) of a model privacy policy that provides a sensible, fair starting point for app developers. Open sourcing the language will empower users to easily view and compare different policies. It also provides the foundation to allow public standards to emerge. Docracy’s founders have 6 years of experience in building mobile apps, so we really took this issue to heart.

    With close to 1 million apps helping us work, play, and search for restaurants, mobile apps have become crucial to our daily lives. As users, we are starting to think about the data these apps are collecting. What happens to it: Do you publish my location? Do you sell my profile to advertisers so I can play your game for free? Privacy policies are there to answer these questions honestly.

    Privacy policies are also required by law: OPPA applies to mobile apps as well as websites, and recently California’s Attorney General signed a compliance agreement with all the major platforms, which will in turn require a policy for all the apps in their respective markets. Europe has a uniform law that governs online privacy protection for consumers, and even Obama is getting into the privacy policy game. Nevertheless, not all apps have policies in place, and fewer than 50% of those with policies make them accessible to users before they download the product.

    Developers don’t want to upset their users. They want to do it right. But there are not many resources out there to help them figure out how. A number of sites will help you generate your policy for free, but few are making a move to standardize the language to ease the creators’ job, and save the consumers time.

    Therefore, we decided to provide an open-sourced starting point, and along with it comes our usual commitment to constant improvement. We strive for something that is clear and fair to app developers, advocacy groups, corporate stakeholders, and of course, to end users. The language and content is based on the annotated framework published by the Mobile Marketing Association (thanks, MMA!), and we’ve posted three different versions covering the most common types of policies. Anybody looking for a privacy policy can now branch the document (i.e., make a public copy that will maintain a relationship with the original, and publicly show what’s changed) to customize it for his or her application.

    We encourage you to branch these policies into more specific or improved versions. The legal frameworks around the topic of privacy are changing fast, so we need your help in order to keep this model up to date with best practices. We look forward to improving these privacy policies with the collective knowledge and constructive criticism of the tech community.