March 5, 2012
US Senator Urges FTC Investigation Of Apple And Google
A US senator is urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to launch a probe into Apple Inc and Google Inc after reports that applications on both companies´ phones allowed photos and contact information to be hijacked.
In a previous report by the New York Times, it was revealed that app developers could manipulate the location sharing feature in Apple´s iOS software, allowing a user´s contact information and personally stored photos to be downloaded to remote servers without permission.
Schumer said that Apple, and Google as well, are obligated to protect the private content of their customers. “When someone takes a private photo, on a private cell phone, it should remain just that: private,” he said.
The distribution of third-party apps on Apple´s iPhones and Google´s Android-based phones has helped to increase the popularity of those devices. However, Schumer is concerned that applications run on those devices are secretly collecting personal data, including photos and entire address books with names, numbers and email addresses.
“These uses go well beyond what a reasonable user understands himself to be consenting to when he allows an app to access data on the phone for purposes of the app's functionality,” Schumer wrote to the FTC.
He added that “smartphone makers should be required to put in place safety measures to ensure third party applications are not able to violate a user´s personal privacy by stealing photographs or data that the user did not consciously decide to make public.”
He said it was his understanding that many of these uses violate the terms of service of the Apple and Android platforms. He said it remains unclear how those terms of service are being enforced and monitored, if they are at all.
“Smartphone makers should be required to put in place safety measures to ensure third party applications are not able to violate a user´s personal privacy by stealing photographs or data that the user did not consciously decide to make public,” he noted.
The Verge news website reported last week that Apple was working on a security patch to fix the issue, but at that time a timeline for when that update would be applied was not available.
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