Apple harvesting privacy data promises to stop with update

Inquiry by US Congress forces Apple to admit it has been stealthily harvesting iPhone users private date

ComputerWorld – US Congressmen Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook asking him about iOS apps that have harvested users’ address book information without permission.

Shortly after two U.S. Congressmen asked Apple to answer questions about iPhone and iPad apps that snatch users’ contact lists without permission, the Cupertino, Calif. company promised it will address the issue with a future software update. 

Waxman and Butterfield cited reports that Path, which sells an iOS online journal app, was grabbing users’ address books and uploading them to its servers. After the allegations went viral, Path’s CEO apologized and said the company deleted the collected address books from its servers.

“We now understand that the way we had designed our ‘Add Friends’ feature was wrong,” acknowledged Path CEO Dave Morin in a Feb. 8 mea culpa. “We are deeply sorry if you were uncomfortable with how our application used your phone contacts.”

In the letter to Cook, Waxman and Butterfield, who are the top Democrats on two House committees, asked, “Whether Apple’s iOS app developer policies and practices may fall short when it comes to protecting the information of iPhone users and their contacts.”

“You have built into your devices the ability to turn off in one place the transmission of location information entirely or on an app-by-app basis,” their letter (to Apple) stated. “Please explain why you have not done the same for address book information.”

“Apps that collect or transmit a user’s contact data without their prior permission are in violation of our guidelines,” an Apple spokesman told AllThingsD and Reuters. “We’re working to make this even better for our customers, and as we have done with location services, any app wishing to access contact data will require explicit user approval in a future software release.” Read the rest of the story.

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