Website Design

Protection of Privacy & Intellectual Property Remain Major Concerns for App Developers & Owners

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If you are a business owner intending to offer a mobile application (“app”) to customers, clients or members, in addition to being clear about who owns what from an intellectual property point of view as to the app’s content and the data it generates, be sure that its construction and operation allow you to meet regulatory requirements. Knowing the legal issues you could face will allow for better design and operation of the app and lessen the chances for missteps.

Here are questions to ask the app’s developer and your operations and maintenance team, along with some actions you can take to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Considering Intellectual Property Protection Issues:

• Who will own the copyrightable content in the mobile app? You or the developer?
• Will the app contain trade secrets or patentable subject matter?
• Will the app incorporate the intellectual property of third parties, such as trademarks or photographs?
• Will the app’s construction rely on any open source software?

The best way to address intellectual property issues is to have appropriate written agreements in place, such as licenses for third-party content, work-made-for-hire agreements, assignments of rights, and non-disclosure agreements.

Considering Privacy and Personal Data Protection Issues:

• What is the minimum personal data that you need to collect to achieve your objectives?
• What kind of technical data, such as IP addresses and transaction data, will the app collect?
• Will you be collecting personal data from minors, especially those under the age of 13?
• Will the app be used by people outside of the USA?
• Will the app offer opt-in or opt-out mechanisms?
• How will the data be stored?
• What kind of procedures will be in place in the event of a cyber breach in the collection or storage of your data?

If the app will collect personal information about users such as health or financial information, or if it will be interacting with minors, then it is critical to be proactive. Analyze your methods of collection, use and storage of the data. Identify the regulatory requirements your app must satisfy prior to collecting personal information (e.g., having the consent of the user) or how to deal with an outside breach of security (think Target, Home Depot, JP Morgan/Chase). Such forethought will enable you to have policies and procedures to lessen exposure and/or allow for timely corrective action should a cyber breach of your data protection safeguards take place.

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Websites viewed from PC and laptop screens will likely be passé in a few years if Google has anything to say about it.  Recently, Google launched Google TV at its May 2010 I/O Developers’ Conference in San Francisco. (   The goal of the new platform will be to blend the best of TV and Web offerings.

Google TV combines the functions of Internet with high definition television.  Currently, the hardware consists of Sony televisions and Logitech set-top boxes and will be available in Best Buy stores this fall.

As a website or app developer, you should care because to maximize the user’s experience, it will be important to have specially designed custom web pages for Google TV. Also, because the Google TV device will be powered by a 1.2 gigahertz processor,  designers will be able to create new experiences for the viewers.

To get ahead of the curve, check out the tools that Google has provided to help developers design web pages and apps for its TV platform.  (

As is pointed out in MIT’s Technology Review article ( Google does not have any strong content providers on board.  However, once some dynamite apps are created for the new platform and are embraced by viewers,  the content owners are bound to follow.

Given all of the hand-held devices being marketed, do you think Google is on the right track?  What legal issues do you foresee if you would like to program for this new platform?    One thought that I have is that as a website or app designer entering this arena, just be sure to read and understand the small print in the licenses under which you will be designing.