California Shot Down in First Effort to Require Privacy Policies for Apps

By Cameron Scott 

mobile apps, mobile privacy, digital privacy, kamala harris, californiaThe State of California’s case against Delta Airlines for failing to provide a privacy policy that covers its mobile app, Fly Delta, has been effectively dismissed.

Delta filed a demurrer, the equivalent of a ‘so what?’, and yesterday a judge upheld it.

The suit was the first filed by California Attorney General Kamala Harris, whose determination that the state constitution’s privacy protections required mobile apps to provide privacy policies made the state the first to regulate mobile privacy.

While the result may be a PR defeat for the attorney general’s office, it will likely have a minimal influence on the state’s ability to enforce its mobile privacy requirements. That’s because the judge in the case, state judge Marla J. Miller, based her ruling on a federal law restricting the states from regulating the airline industry.

The attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Because the ruling is specific to the airline industry, we don’t know what will happen in any lawsuit outside the airline industry. So, unfortunately, we don’t know much more about the law than we did before the ruling,” said Eric Goldman, director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University.

Dominique Shelton, an attorney with Edwards Wildman, agreed. But she noted that while the judge had focused in oral arguments on the special case of airlines, Delta also included in the brief that was ultimately accepted by the judge a claim that mobile apps did not fall under the scope of the California privacy law that targets “online services.”

“I suspect defendants are going to do is jump on this decision,” she said. But, she added, “I don’t think it’s a winning argument.”