Lawmakers Want Apple To Brief Them On iOS App Privacy

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On Wednesday, 14 March 2012, two US lawmakers asked Apple representatives to brief members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on the company’s mobile privacy policies. The lawmakers said that a letter from Apple did not answer all of their questions.

This request is the latest development in a controversy over whether iOS apps should ask for an iPhone owner’s consent before gathering contact information from the phone or not. This issue arose after reports that the social-networking app Path was accessing and collecting iPhone users’ address book data without seeking their consent.

Representative Henry Waxman, ranking member of the committee, and Representative G.K. Butterfield, ranking member of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, wrote to Apple CEO Tim Cook on 15 February 2012. They cited the Path issue and asked nine questions about Apple’s iOS app developer policies regarding privacy.

Apple responded on 2 March 2012 with a letter that outlined its iOS app review guidelines, noting that the rules said apps could not transmit data about a user without obtaining prior permission and informing them how and where the data would be used. It said that “the vast majority” of the 550,000 apps from third parties did not collect or transmit any user data. Apple also announced that a future software release will include a mechanism for explicit user consent to access address-book data. This would be similar to the current consent process for location data. A study has revealed that jailbreak apps seek lesser data than app store apps.

On Wednesday, Waxman and Butterfield wrote back to Cook and said the 2 March 2012 letter did not answer all of their questions. They also raised new questions about reports that apps could access photos on Apple mobile devices. “To help us understand these issues, we request that you make available representatives to brief our staff on the Energy and Commerce Committee,” Waxman and Butterfield wrote. Waxman, of California, and Butterfield, of North Carolina, are both Democrats.

Pressure on mobile privacy is also coming from various other quarters in the government. On 5 March 2012, US Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, asked the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to investigate Apple and Google’s allowing apps to access the photos on users’ phones.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday’s letter.

Source: Mac World

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