Privacy expectations during disasters differ significantly from non-emergency situations. Recent scandals, such as inappropriate disclosures from FEMA to contractors, illustrate that tradeoffs between emergencies and privacy must be made carefully. Increased use of social technologies to facilitate communication and support first responders provide more opportunities for privacy infringements, despite increased regulation of disaster information flows to government agencies and with trusted partners of the government. This paper specifically explores the actual practices followed by popular disaster apps. Our empirical study compares content analysis of privacy policies and government agency policies, structured by the contextual integrity (CI) framework, with static and dynamic app analysis documenting the personal data they send. We identify substantive gaps between regulation and guidance, privacy policies, and information flows generated by apps/platforms, resulting from ambiguities and exploitation of exemptions. Results also indicate gaps between governance and practice, including: (1) many apps ignore transmission principles self-defined in policy; (2) while some policies state they ‘might’ access location data under certain conditions, those conditions are not met as 12 apps included in our study capture location immediately upon download; and (3) not all third parties data recipients are identified in policy, including instances that violate expectations of trusted third parties. We visually map disaster information flows during disasters and around third party and government apps within the disaster response domain, and emphasize information exchanges between specific actors and the differences between actual flows of personal information and regulatory and policy specifications.
Sanfilippo, Madelyn and Shvartzshnaider, Yan and Reyes, Irwin and Nissenbaum, Helen F and Egelman, Serge, Disaster Privacy/Privacy Disaster (July 26, 2019).