Australia: Is your mobile app privacy-friendly?

Mobile apps are the new "must have" tool in any mobile marketing strategy, particularly for consumer brands. Cost effective to develop and operate, apps provide an ease and immediacy of interaction with consumers that is not available through traditional marketing channels.

They also have the potential to gather extensive amounts of personal information about the consumer. For organisations bound by the Australian Privacy Act, including the Australian Privacy Principles, this presents a legal compliance risk that needs to be balanced against the marketing strategy.


A global sweep of 1,200 mobile apps earlier this year by the found that the majority of mobile apps have privacy issues.

Most of the apps included in the annual sweep seek to access the user's contact details, social media accounts and other personal information, without providing the user with sufficient information security protocols or properly advising the user of how their personal information will be used (and how they can protect their privacy).

A similar picture was painted by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in its recent report on mobile shopping apps. The FTC found these apps often failed to clearly advise consumers of how their personal information would be used or handled.

The recommendation of the GPEN, following its annual sweep, is that "clear, concise information about privacy practices builds customer trust and is good for business". This sentiment is echoed by the FTC and reflected in the OAIC's privacy guidance for mobile app developers in the OAIC's " Mobile privacy: a better practice guide for mobile app developers". (Although the OAIC Guide was developed prior to the privacy law reforms earlier this year, it still provides useful guidance as to better privacy practice for mobile app developers and providers.)


If you're looking to develop or use a mobile app to interact with consumers in Australia, and you're bound by the Australian Privacy Act1, you will need to:


The golden rule: "if you don't need to know, don't collect it". This goes hand-in hand with another golden rule: "the more you know, the more you're responsible for". Some tips:

  • Avoid collecting sensitive information (such as health information) through the app, if possible.
  • If you're using WiFi analytics or the app seeks to access the user's personal information (such as the user's location, MAC address/IP address, social media accounts, camera and contacts), consider whether you really need all this data and how the user can turn off these functions.


  • Understand how the data will flow through your organisation (the "data lifecycle"). This means knowing what personal information the app collects, what you'll do with it, where the data goes, how it is stored and your processes for deleting data at the end of its lifecycle.
  • If you're intending to use the mobile app to send direct marketing or you will share personal information collected through the app with others (particularly where they are overseas), ensure you can do so lawfully and be transparent about this in your privacy policy.
  • Conduct a Privacy Impact Assessment to help you map the data lifecycle. It will highlight privacy risk "hotspots" and whether your data handling processes need updating.


Provide the user with:

  • clear Terms of Use that deal with privacy, prior to the app being downloaded (or first launched) that are easy to find and to understand; and
  • easy access to your privacy policy and collection notice. This should be up-to-date and set out (in plain English) what personal information the mobile app collects and how you will handle that personal information (see APPs 1 and 5 for further detail). If you must link to another site that hosts your privacy policy, ensure the link works and can be accessed through the app.


The OAIC's Guide contains an extensive list of recommendations for meeting the "small screen" challenge. This includes:

  • incorporating short form notices for privacy policies that are no longer than a single screen (if possible);
  • drawing the users' attention to any collection, use or disclosure of information that they would not otherwise reasonably expect; and
  • using pop-ups, layered information and just-in-time notification to inform users of potential collections or uses of personal information when they are about to happen.


This means building in privacy and security settings into the app's architecture from the beginning, rather than trying to "bolt it on" later.


The contract should reflect your privacy compliance (as well as commercial, technical and legal) requirements, such as the required privacy features and settings. It should also deal with the level of access the developer will have to consumer data collected through the app (if any) during development and testing and on completion.

The bottom line is, if you're using a mobile app to engage with consumers in Australia or to otherwise collect personal information, then you will need to ensure it complies with the Australian Privacy Principles.

You must be transparent about what personal information you're collecting and your privacy practices, as well as complying with your other privacy obligations under the Australian Privacy Principles. The risk of non-compliance could be a fine of up to $1.7 million for an organisation, which would put a big hole in any marketing budget.


1This may include a foreign company, if there is an "Australia link" in accordance with s5B of the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth).

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

Most awarded firm and Australian deal of the year
Australasian Legal Business Awards
Employer of Choice for Women
Equal Opportunity for Women
in the Workplace (EOWA)

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions