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Mobile apps raise terms of service questions

3/21/2012

With mobile device applications being downloaded and used at an ever-increasing rate, there has been growing concern about the terms of use agreements governing these programs.

A recent article in the San Jose Mercury News pointed out that there are nearly 600,000 apps in the Apple App Store, and to access many of them, users are required to accept terms of service that are hard to comprehend. Furthermore, there just isn't time to read through all these documents.

"For most of us, it's really challenging to read this stuff and make sense out of it," said Kurt Opsahl, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "Whether it's terms of service or a privacy policy, some of them are so lengthy that if you spent a day surfing the web collecting all the terms and policies affecting you, it would take you more than a whole other day to read them all."

Given this situation, some people are advocating for change, according to the News. One advocate is California Attorney General Kamala Harris. Harris is pushing for simplified mobile app agreements and a more streamlined way of presenting them to users, and has already reached an agreement with tech giants such as Google and Apple.

The News pointed out that despite the vast number of terms of service and privacy agreements that do exist, some apps do not have one in place, in violation of California law. These violating apps include 22 of the top 30 paid apps, according to Travis LeBlanc, the special assistant to the attorney general.

To comply with the California law without getting too entangled in the sometimes complicated legal language of these agreements, app developers might consider using convenient software that includes a terms of service template.