Mobile app companies agree to CA rules on privacy policies

California’s Attorney General announced a deal Wednesday with six major mobile apps companies that would require apps in their stores and on their platformsmartphone userss to post privacy policies detailing how they collect personal information before they are downloaded. The agreement comes as concern over how mobile companies use that information has grown.

Kamala Harris worked with Amazon (s amzn), Apple (s aapl), Google (s goog), HP (s hpq), Microsoft (s msft), and Research in Motion (s rimm) on what appears to be a formal agreement to help app developers comply with an already existing California law that requires them to have privacy policies. The main change is that the six companies responsible for the vast majority of app downloads in the U.S. must now provide app developers with a way to link to an app’s privacy policy on their own Web sites or insert the text of the policy within the app. But the statement released by Harris’ office was “not intended to impose legally binding obligations on the (mobile companies).”

It’s hard to imagine the new agreement having too much of an effect on mobile privacy. Even if “the majority” of mobile apps lack privacy policies (per Harris’ office), the majority of those downloading apps blow right past those privacy policies in order to install their new toy. Those who do read the policies are in store for some of the finest legalese yet created as to hide as much as possible the notion that free apps depend on the collection of personal data. Having a policy is much better than not having a policy, but greater emphasis on making those policies easier to understand would be appreciated.

Harris’ agreement stops short of pinpointing specific uses of personal information that might harm consumers, but it does make it easier for app developers to post policies and for consumers to report violations of those policies, so it’s probably better than nothing. The AG’s press release said the parties will reconvene in six months, at which point there will likely have been yet another incident along the lines of Path’s address-book snafu that drew widespread attention.