New Selfie App Meitu Sparks Privacy Concerns

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When you consider the addage “There’s an App for that,” its truth has become even more true as the years have passed.  However, as can be imagines, not every app operates the same.  While this makes sense with code, UI, and design, it becomes more nuanced when focused on data collection and privacy.

A new popular App called Meitu allows users to make their photos “beautiful” and creative.  Users can add makeup, slim down their faces, and even make their face resemble an anime character.  And, while a free version of the App exists, the cost of using the free app may very well be the sacrifice of privacy and information related to your phone and phone use.  Of course, Apps often collect data.  And, it would be natural for Meitu to require access to your smartphone’s camera and photos.  However, reports that Meitu also asks for your GPS location, cell carrier information, Wi-Fi connection data, and SIM card information.

In a statement, the Meitu company said that its “sole purpose for collecting the data is to optimize app performance, its effects and features and to better understand our consumer engagement with in-app advertisements. Meitu does not sell user data in any form . . . .”  The verdict remains out on whether such  information needs to be collected.  However, as long as users have knowledge of the information collected and the purposes for the collection, they can make informed decisions on whether to grant such permission to Apps and their developers.

At the very minimum, users should pay attention to the permissions sought by any app before downloading it or, at the latest, prior to use.  And, App developers should fully disclose the information collected and the purposes for such collection.  In this way, consumers and parents can make informed decisions on which Apps to allow on their phones.

Mudd Law represents App and software developers on a variety of legal matters including, but not limited to, development of privacy policies and product disclosures.