Let’s Not Screw Up Mobile Privacy

This week we saw headlines about mobile apps that violate your privacy by uploading your address book without permission.

These kind of "mistakes" helped kill demand for desktop software, and I’d hate to see history repeat itself with mobile software.

Several years ago I wrote that desktop software is paralyzed by fear due to all the frightening warnings that show up when you try to install something. It wasn’t just the rise of Web apps that led people away from desktop apps: it was also because installing desktop apps became too damn scary.

The same thing could happen to mobile software. Repeated privacy violations will force mobile OS vendors to show more warnings, scaring customers away from trying new apps.

Mobile developers who want to avoid that possible future should accept the idea that data on the device must stay on the device unless the user has given permission to upload or share it. Being able to access data on the device in no way implies ownership of that data.

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