PhotoSome words of advice to mobile app developers and companies that have a mobile presence: make sure you have an easy-to-find privacy policy.

Otherwise, you could be hearing from California Attorney General Kamala Harris. Harris this week began formally notifying scores of mobile application developers and companies that they are not in compliance with California privacy law.

“Protecting the privacy of online consumers is a serious law enforcement matter,” Harris said. “We have worked hard to ensure that app developers are aware of their legal obligations to respect the privacy of Californians, but it is critical that we take all necessary steps to enforce California’s privacy laws.”

Must post a privacy policy

The law requires that developers post a privacy policy within their app that informs users of what personally identifiable information about them is being collected and what will be done with that private information. Companies found to be in violation will be given 30 days to get in compliance.

Companies can face fines of up to $2,500 each time a non-compliant app is downloaded.

Letters are being sent out to up to 100 non-compliant apps, starting with those who have the most popular apps available on mobile platforms.

Harris is following up on action she took with the seven leading mobile and social app platforms to improve privacy protections for millions of users around the globe who use apps on their smartphones, tablets, and other electronic devices. Those platforms -- Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft, and Research in Motion -- agreed to privacy principles designed to bring the industry in line with California law requiring mobile apps that collect personal information to have a privacy policy.

Review the policy before downloading the app

That agreement allows consumers the opportunity to review an app’s privacy policy before they download the app rather than after, and offers consumers a consistent location for an app’s privacy policy on the application-download screen in the platform store.

Harris has set up a special unit within her office to enforce the California Online Privacy Protection Act. She said the unit's investigators and researchers will enforce both federal and state privacy laws regulating the collection, retention, disclosure and destruction of private or sensitive information by individuals, organizations and the government.

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