Information Collection & Use Practices by iPhone App Developers
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Law Markers Question the Information Collection and Use Practices by iPhone App Developers

The US Lawmakers are seeking to better understand what, if any, information iPhone and iPad apps gather, what they do with it, and what notice they provide to app users.  The members want the information to begin building a fact-based understanding of the privacy and security practices in the iOS app marketplace. Android Apps are also facing scrutiny.

In the wake of a lawsuit filed at the US District Court for the Western District of Texas against 18 companies – including Facebook, Apple, Twitter and Yelp – for allegedly distributing privacy-invading mobile apps, the US lawmakers have requested 34 of the top Apple iPhone Apps brands to provide information on how the mobile apps collect consumer data. The letters were sent to the companies with mobile apps in App Store’s “iPhone Essentials” section. The companies have till April 12th to respond to the US House Energy and commerce Committee.

On Thursday Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Henry A. Waxman and Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee Ranking Member G. K. Butterfield announced that they have sent letters to 34 developers and distributors of social apps for Apple Inc.’s mobile devices inquiring about their information collection and use practices.

Following recent reports that apps could collect address book information and photos without notice and consent from users of Apple’s mobile devices, the members are seeking to better understand what, if any, information these particular apps gather, what they do with it, and what notice they provide to app users.  The members want the information to begin building a fact-based understanding of the privacy and security practices in the app marketplace. 

The letters noted the recent discovery that the social networking app Path was accessing and the copying the users’ address book data without their knowledge and consent.

“Last month, a developer of applications (‘apps’) for Apple’s mobile devices discovered that the social networking app Path was accessing and collecting the contents of his iPhone address book without having asked for his consent,” read the committee’s letter to Facebook. “Concerns were subsequently raised about the manner in which apps can access photographs on Apple’s mobile devices. We are writing to you because we want to better understand the information collection and use policies and practices of apps for Apple’s mobile devices with a social element.”

Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare have offered no public comments yet.

Despite the fact that these letters were sent only to the iOS app developers and distributions, there are much wider concerns over mobile app permissions. Google Android apps are also facing scrutiny.

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