Technology’s capabilities are rapidly expanding and apps, officially known as applications, exemplify this
growth. Downloading an app on a smartphone or a tablet expands its capabilities, supplying the device
with the power of a computer yet far more mobile. However, apps’ capabilities also have a more sinister
side, collecting mass amounts of personal information from users without their full knowledge. Given
this threat to consumer privacy, new legislation must be developed and updated to safeguard users
against privacy infringements and maintain trust in the marketplace. This paper demonstrates the gap in
Canadian privacy regulation regarding apps and presents that additional legislation is required for
greater accountability, transparency, and user choice.
Smartphones are increasingly populating the mobile landscape, with a sizable amount of personal
information flowing through these powerful devices. One concern is that smartphones are highly mobile
and always-on devices that are perpetually with the user, allowing location tracking. A small screen size
also impedes companies’ ability to effectively communicate to the user what personal information is
being collected, and the rapid development lifecycle of apps increases the probability of inadequate
considerations. Although consumers value information obtained through using apps, they also wish to
protect their personal information and privacy. Likewise, businesses value consumer behaviour
information acquired through consumer usage of apps, information that enables them to understand
and effectively target their consumers. Consequently, consumers’ personal information holds value—
and challenges—for consumers and producers of apps alike.
In 2007, the first app was created for Apple’s iPhone. Since then the app market has exploded, as users
are increasingly using apps to access location information, social media, entertainment, and other
information. As the app industry is largely unregulated, this presents privacy concerns as to the amount
of personal information being collected, with whom it is shared, and for how long it is retained. In
essence, a lack of disclosure and transparency exists on the part of app developers and providers.