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FTC asked to investigate Apple and Google over personal data collection

05 Mar 2012
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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been asked to investigate Apple and Google amid concerns that some iOS and Android apps are collecting personal information from devices and passing it to third parties.

In a letter to the FTC, US senator Charles Schumer expressed concerns that privacy rights may be infringed as contact names, telephone numbers and email addresses are acquired from devices without user permission.

"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," Reuters quoted Schumer as saying in the letter.

"[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."

Schumer noted that it was unclear whether the use of personal information in this way violates the terms of service of the Apple and Android platforms.

"It is not clear whether or how those terms of service are being enforced and monitored," he added.

In response to the claims of unauthorised photo sharing, Google has said that it is re-evaluating its policies with regards to application permissions.

"As phones and tablets have evolved to rely more on built-in, non-removable memory, we're taking another look at this and considering adding a permission for apps to access images," a Google spokesperson said in a statement to V3.

"We've always had policies in place to remove any apps on Android Market that improperly access your data."

The firm pointed out that its recently announced Bouncer service also scans the Android Market in an attempt to detect and remove malicious apps.

Apple had not responded to comment from V3 on the development.

The request to the FTC comes as research from MWR InfoSecurity found that Android applications allow text messages, emails, photos, contacts and calendar information to be passed directly to advertising firms.

The research was commissioned by Channel 4, although no details about which applications or how many pass on information have been disclosed at this time.

European justice commissioner, Viviane Reding, has gone on record as saying that data protection laws in Europe may need to be strengthened to protect citizens.

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Khidr Suleman
About

Khidr Suleman is a reporter at V3.co.uk, a role he has fulfilled since June 2010. He covers business hardware news and reviews, including smartphones, laptops, tablets, projectors and printers, as well as online applications.

Prior to joining V3.co.uk, Khidr worked as a freelance technology journalist. He studied law at the University of Reading and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism and Online Writing at PMA Training.

 

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