In 2018, The Consumer Authority of Norway coordinated a supervisory action on consumer data and terms and conditions with the Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN). Among the results of the action was a lack of information on how apps collect and process the personal data of the consumer. The information was often hard to find, many clicks away from where you would actually download the apps.
– If an app is designed to profit on personal data collected from us, this information should be given clearly up front, says Director General of The Consumer Authority of Norway, Elisabeth Lier Haugseth. Only then can we make a decision based on that information, on whether we want to use this app or not, adds Haugseth.
On this background, 27 international consumer authorities now jointly approach Apple and Google as responsible platform providers to suggest changes to the layouts of their app stores. The aim is that app providers should be able to give the necessary information. The initiative is coordinated by the Netherlands and Norway, and gives Apple and Google the possibility to suggest remedies to consumer authorities from every continent, all at once.
– It is an advantage for both consumers and businesses that the authorities are cooperating internationally, says Haugseth. – If we do not find any agreeable solution through dialogue, it will increase global traders’risk for national enforcement action.
Minister for consumer affairs, Kjell Ingolf Ropstad, believes this case sheds light on an important challenge for consumers in their digital daily life.
– Today, it is too difficult for consumers to assess which data apps collect, and how the data is further used. Consumers can’t be expected to go to every app’s website and read long privacy policies before starting to use them, says Ropstad.
– I believe that Apple and Google should take more responsibility to inform consumers on privacy for of the apps that are downloaded from their stores. It is good that the Consumer Authority is taking international leadership in this case, and placing the app stores’ role and responsibility on the agenda, he says.
Information requirements when there’s no payment in money
Many apps and services in digital economy are financed through commercial use of personal data. For the consumers to be able to compare apps before they make a decision on whether to download or not, they have to have clear access to correct information – whether the apps cost money, or they use our data. Transparency on the data collection is necessary for the consumer to be able to make informed decisions. Consumer protection law is in these situations applied in addition to the requirements of data protection and privacy law.