This past December Apple introduced “privacy nutrition labels” for all Apps available in the App Store. Presumably named to create a resemblance of FDA cereal box nutritional facts, these labels are designed to be a user-friendly way of checking an App’s data collection and use practices. However, consumers have already reported misrepresentation of data usage labels and have not been reassured by Apple’s auditing protocol. Apple’s monopolization of the App Store forces the App developers to comply with the selective auditing Apple chooses to enforce. Competitors of Apple like Spotify are probably more likely to be audited and could be subject to removal should Apple see any issues with the reporting of data use. Other Apps go completely unchecked and reporters have started to ask who is actually benefiting from this update?
While Apple presents itself as a proponent of fundamental privacy rights, the company also informs users that App “information has not been verified by Apple.” Apple “respects your ability to know, access, correct, transfer, restrict the processing of, and delete your personal data … if you choose to exercise these privacy rights, you have the right not to be treated in a discriminatory way.” Apple respects a user’s ability to make knowledgeable decisions before purchasing an App based on their “privacy nutrition labels.” How does a user make an informed decision when Apple doesn’t verify that information? Complaints by the U.S. House suggest Apple may be auditing to monopolize their competition first and protect our interests second.
The app developers are required to check a series of yes/no boxes that will create a label that pictographically summarizes the app’s privacy practices. The labels use four categories to provide information to consumers: data used to track you, data linked to you, data not linked to you, and data not collected. Apps that do not collect any data receive a blue check-mark; a symbol associated with ‘verified users’. This mechanism was introduced by Twitter in 2009 to show authenticity of an account holder. Apple should be wary of the consumer confusion they may create with their non-verified blue check-mark. Twitter owns the trademark to the verification check-mark and has an application process to receive the coveted blue check-mark. Should complaints continue to arise of misrepresentation and misuse, it would not be surprising to see Twitter step in and protect the validity of their trademark and what it represents.