License Agreements, Privacy Polices, and Bears, Oh My! – App Store Foibles

Downloading an app shouldn't be as dangerous as driving in this traffic.

Downloading an app shouldn’t be as dangerous as driving in this traffic.

As you add apps to your new iPad Air, how much have you been reading the licenses with those apps, or the privacy policies?  I know that as a mobile app developer that dealing with the proprietors of those marketplaces is a challenge.  They change the rules, and when they update their mobile OS, they may actually break your app.  Frustration with those changes is not an excuse to not provide your users with meaningful information about what they are getting into.

I am going to use a recent game that I picked up as a case study of what not to do as a mobile app developer when you are generating the documents that go along with your mobile apps.  Stop thinking the customers aren’t paying attention and do the right thing.

NOTE: I am going to be referencing what is in the description in the iTunes App Store.  Given what I found as I looked deeper, I can only assume that the problems are replicated across all marketplaces.

My foray as a customer into the morass that we all created

Yesterday I had the pleasure of picking up the next installment in the Anomaly Warzone series, Anomaly 2.  This is a game that takes tower defense games and looks at it from the perspective of the guys running through the maze.  Fun game.  But I had some time as I was waiting for it to download, so I started looking at the reviews and then the licenses, and the buried privacy policy.

Before I start to go into this case study of generally what not to do, let me say this.  I really enjoy this game.  I played the first iteration for hours.  The graphics are stunning and the game controls are easy to understand.  So my benefit is great gameplay.  I still don’t know what cost I am going to pay because there are some interesting things I agreed to.

I hate boilerplate!

I understand that lawyer’s time is limited and that boilerplate is necessary to get your work done.  Reliance on it is lazy, though, and I hate it.  Especially when mistakes pop up.  If you click into the license agreement, you don’t have to go very far to get to this:

SPECIAL TERMS APPLY TO SCRABBLE USERS

I didn’t download Scrabble, so why do I care.  Your developers took pains to develop a new game so why did you lazy your way through it’s license agreement.  They have great systems to manage code bases for different projects, so should you.  Stop Being Lazy!!

You consent to impermissible data collection!

Remember when Apple told developers to stop using the UDID in their apps.  They even offered something they think is better, the IDFA, or Identifier for Advertisers.  I remember this because I talked about it.  Guess what, if you download and use an EA game, you actually agree to them using the UDID:

… you agree that EA and certain third parties … may use cookies, web beacons and other analytic technologies to collect, use, store and transmit technical and related information regarding your mobile device (including MAC Address and/or unique device id or UDID) …

Again, stop being lazy and why are the lawyers not talking to the developers.  I am reasonably certain that the app actually doesn’t use the UDID.  As to MAC addresses, remember that stores that use WiFi to track consumers are using the MAC address as the data point.  So know your game habits can be combined with your in-store purchase behavior.

If this was a case of a minor bug release, I would be a lot more forgiving of the legal support that is given to this development team.  But this is version 1.  Why is it so hard to put some actual legal work into the app release.  A few hours of time would be enough to clean this up.

It’s almost like they just don’t care.

Where is the privacy policy?

If you are buying this game, unless you click into the license agreement, you will never get a link to the privacy policy until you launch the app on your device.  EA has a privacy policy.  It is a simple enough matter to provide a link to a global privacy policy in your app submission.  They don’t get to cry that it is too hard to do this.  I know that it is just another field in your app submission.  Stop Being Lazy!!

Third parties galore

The bestest part of this license agreement is a comprehensive listing of all the third parties that may collect, store and use your data, as well as their privacy policies.  In the License Agreement on the iTunes App Store, I find it amusing that I get a link out to the Google Apps privacy statement.  Why?  Because the lawyers were too lazy to update.  They also have a huge problem with duplicate entries (go to the bottom of the license agreement and tell me why I need two links to the same page).  Also multiple entries in different categories for the same company.  This is absolutely insane.

This comprehensive listing is ridiculous.  Either all these companies are collecting and using my data from the game (probably not given the mention of Google Apps), or the legal team just did a dump of all contracted vendors and dumped them in this document.  I bet some of these companies don’t even have a current relationship with EA.

Your developers work hard, so should your lawyers

Why is the legal requirements always the last to be dealt with?  How involved was the legal team in the development?  In my time, I tried to be aware of all that was going on.  As things changed in the app ecosphere I reached out to see what we were doing.  Am I the only one?  I know I am not.

Your users deserve the best out of your legal team.  Apparently, EA doesn’t think too much of its users to really think about reasonable terms of the agreement between the user and EA.

If you have more than one app out there, I understand that there is a challenge in managing different licenses.  Go talk to your technology teams.  I bet they have some tools that you could use.  Stop being so lazy.  Do the right thing by your users.

By the way, I didn’t uninstall the game, or neglect to pay the game.  I guess I am just part of the problem.  That doesn’t mean that the problem goes away.

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