Mobile App Terms Conditions Mobile App Terms and Conditions - why sweat the small print?

Mobile App Terms Conditions

This article on mobile app terms conditions is not and is not intended to be legal advice and does not apply to any particular circumstance. Lawyers can only advise when they are properly instructed and every mobile app project is different.

Here are some issues that might be raised in your instructions when seeking mobile app terms conditions.
 
1. Security
 
Security concerns surrounding the explosive growth of apps that run on iOS and Android have been raised at the most senior levels of government. In 2011 Gordon Snow of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation noted that criminal activity seeking to exploit the vulnerability of mobile phones has increased.

Google Inc. responded by removing several apps from its online store that violated copyrights, and which could have been modified to steal banking data. Thorough data protection and privacy policies as well as security provisions in the mobile apps terms of use are recommended.
 
2. Regulation
 
Regulations such as the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000 are just some of the many regulations that might need to be considered when developing a custom mobile app for commerce. A good example of how a mobile app can find itself on the wrong side of regulation is Uber.

The Uber app is an app based alternative to the traditional taxi. But its disruptive nature is causing controversy. In France a law has been passed slowing down the response times of Uber taxis. the law came into force on the 01 January 2014. It states that all car services—but not licensed taxis—must wait at least 15 minutes between taking a reservation and picking up a passenger. For companies like Uber whose unique selling points include their response time, this law was viewed as a direct attempt to protect the traditional taxi business.

The Airbnb app may have it worse. Airbnb is essentially an app that allows people to be able to rent out their spare room to strangers. The disruptive nature of the app made regulators nervous. According to the Telegraph, in December 2013 France, Germany and Spain were all considering new laws to prevent home owners from renting out there properties on short lets. on the 01 January 2014 a new law in Germany went into effect making it illegal for owners of private holiday apartments to rent them to tourists on short lets.

But of-course there might be a legitimate reason for these regulations for example the prevention of “Shill bidding” on an online auction website, or even health and safety with reference to the fatal road accident involving an Uber driver.
 

Mobile App Terms Conditions

Mobile App Terms Conditions

 
3. Mobile App Terms Conditions and Privacy
 
The recent Snapchat hack – and the subsequent arguments over whether the company did enough to apologise to users for it – has sharpened the debate around apps and privacy. As have the ongoing revelations about intelligence agencies’ electronic surveillance, and a growing realisation beyond the technology community that free online services really means “we are selling your data”.

It is not enough to have a fantastic user interface and disruptive business model, you need, amongst other things, a robust privacy policy, to be up-front about how you intend to use data and how secure data will be from hackers.

There are also fresh issues around data protection and international data transfers following the Maximillian Schrems v Data Protection Commissioner case (*added on the 01/03/2016 10:05 am).
 
4. Intellectual Property – Copyright
 
As far as I know there are no reported UK cases yet, relating to intellectual property infringement and mobile app technology. However as in their website counterpart, creative works in mobile apps that are capable of copyright, if infringed, will give rise to various rights of action depending on the category of works.

As well as terms of use, technology should also be employed with respect to protecting intellectual property. Digital watermarking is just one of the methods that can be used to copyright digital images making up a mobile app. Digital watermarking can be used to integrate digital information into images, video, print, and audio files. Further, specialised watermarking software can also help track piracy.
 
5. Cookies
 
Mobile apps sometimes use a technology called “Cookie Tracking”. It is not essential for mobile apps to employ cookies. This cookie tracking technology is sometimes called “Safari flip-flop” or HTML 5 first party cookies”. Cookie tracking is a technology from the desktop web space. On mobile the process normally involves HTML5 local storage. An app developer can place an ID, and then retrieve it later.

In 2011 with the release of IOS 5, Apple rejected the use of UDIDs (unique device identifier) by developers. Using a 40-character string containing letters and numbers UDIDs contain information from which the device owner can be identified, allowing developers and ad networks to collect data about users. Information includes names, app usage, location, and preferences. Mobile app developers responded with cookie tracking technology as an alternative.

Mobile app cookie tracking technology may be rejected by Apple’s App review team as Apple wants developers to use its own Ad Identifier technology.

Developers can create cookies for the cookie store on the Android MOS. Cookies can be managed in the “Cookie Manager”. The Android MOS (Mobile Operating System) employs HTTP “magic-cookie” which is defined by Android as follows: “represents a piece of state information that the HTTP agent and the target server can exchange to maintain a session“.
 
In conclusion, iOS tracking is complex. App developers may wish to use various methods to identify and track user behaviour. Clients need to have a thorough understanding of the tracking methods that they are using and instruct solicitors accordingly.
 
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