Senator urges photos, contacts FTC inquiry into Apple, Google

Senator urges photos, contacts FTC inquiry into Apple, Google

Summary: A U.S. Senator is asking the FTC to investigate Apple and Google after a spate of smartphone applications could access user's contact list data and private photos.

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TOPICS: Apple, Google
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In the wake of the ongoing controversy of Apple applications able to upload contact list data to third-party developers, and Android phones reportedly able to access users' private photos, one U.S. Senator is weighing in and seeking answers.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is calling on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate claims made by the New York Times last month, where it reported a loophole in which an iOS or Android application could access private data in smartphones through poor application permissions.

"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 in the letter to the FTC, reports Reuters.

"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."

While application developers like Path and Twitter have come under fire for covertly accessing the contact list data or private photo access, the application store owners are in the crosshairs of the consumers for allowing such access to smartphones.

Schumer criticises Apple and Google, the driving force of the application store community, for not enforcing the rules of its platform's stores. While these applications, and others, violate the terms and conditions of the application stores, "it is not clear whether or how those terms of service are being enforced and monitored", he added.

"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".

Contact list data held in Apple's iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch were uploaded without the users explicit consent. Later, Android smartphones could be accessed and photos were exposed to the applications. Text message data was also thought to be accessible in a separate case, according to a piece by the Sunday Times, but Facebook refuted the claims entirely.

Apple acknowledged the flaw in its iOS platform, and said a fix would be coming soon. It said, "any app wishing to access contact data will require explicit user approval in a future software release," emulating a similar feature in which location data is accessed.

It is not the first time Apple has been at the front of a storm regarding user privacy in what was dubbed "Locationgate". Last May, it was found that Apple collected user location data, stored it in an unencrypted file on the iOS 4-based smartphone, and the data was uploaded back to the company.

In its testifying to the U.S. Congress, Apple said it would address the issues raises in what became iOS 5, but denied it did any wrongdoing by claiming it was part of a crowdsourced location database.

Apple and Google did not respond to questions regarding the Senator's letter to the FTC.

Image source: Josh Lowensohn/CNET.

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Topics: Apple, Google

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8 comments
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  • Many have failed in creating employments from 2007

    While we keep on hearing that there are jobs we also doubt this statement as many times we have had this and many times this has fizzled out Why? I have no idea but the corporations talk of more employments . I will believe when this happens. Tesco's UK boss has insisted his pledge to generate 20,000 new jobs in Britain will be borne out, despite accusations that major supermarkets are inflating employment creation numbers. We need to know more on this before we start thinking on how they create jobs as these days all want get rid of the employees to make it lean, and more profitable. "There is never end to love, wars, armaments and tussle between wife and husband. Same is the case with the politicians. I have no idea, but I love to read about the both sides with open mind broaden my head ???I have reiterated this and am not at all ashamed to say this again. Yes they are worst in the human lot. They will come near you, kiss your baby, ???Lovely, baby you. What is her name??? It is a he,??? Oh so sorry. Anyway we have all types, lovely son, do you go to school son???? ???No??? Oh that is very sad.??? Just tick this square and we will ensure he goes to Oxford as soon as he grows. ???Then he turns to the PO and tells him ???Get me a piece of cloth with spirit to wash my hands, Gee that kid smell???. I thank you Firozali A.Mulla DBA"
    famulla
    • Antipsychotics

      Seriously man, clozapine, take it.
      .DeusExMachina.
  • they forgot the biggest offender :M$

    M$ is responsible for the most privacy issues today.
    The Linux Geek
    • Back to the fry station Mr. the lunch rush is starting.

      Smoke break is over with. Nothing like a lost ball in tall weeds.
      ItsTheBottomLine
  • Sen. Charles Schumer...

    ...is apparently upset that he hasn't been in the news much lately.
    sissy sue
    • Apparently someone likes hearing her(?)self speak

      Or maybe he is legitimately upset about a loss of user privacy?
      .DeusExMachina.
      • payoff

        Most likely he didn't get his fair share of the lobbyist bribes....
        Tinman57
  • That sure is easy to say

    (Slapping head) Why didn't we think of this sooner? To get rid of all these keyloggers and trojans that infest all manner of devices, we can just have a government agency order the OS makers "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."

    Thank goodness for politicians. What would we ever do without them?
    Robert Hahn