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Software

Apple makes apps ask permission before accessing contacts

Apple is requiring apps that access your contact information to explicitly request access. Annoying extra step or critical privacy measure?

Apple is releasing a software update that will make apps that want to access your contact information ask permission before doing so.

The update arrives in the wake of a privacy row over iOS and Android app Path, which was revealed to be harvesting users' contact information without permission.

"Apps that collect or transmit a user's contact data without their prior permission are in violation of our guidelines," Apple told AllThingsD.

The iPad-crafting company continues, "Any app wishing to access contact data will require explicit user approval in a future software release."

We imagine the way this will work is that in the future, if an app wants to take a peek at your contact information, you'll get a pop-up notification requesting permission, which you can decline if you choose. That's how Apple already handles apps that want to access data about your location.

Apple will be wary of cluttering its OS experience with pop-ups and permission requests, but at the same time it's important customers know what types of data an app is looking at.

In the wake of the recent privacy row, in which it emerged that other apps including Foursquare and Twitter were also accessing contact data without permission (Foursquare says it never stored the data and has updated its app; Twitter is working on an update to clarify its activities), Apple CEO Tim Cook was sent an enquiry from Congress regarding the company's privacy policies.

"This incident raises questions about 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," the letter states.

What do you think? Is Apple lax when it comes to privacy? Or is this a storm in a tea cup? Tell me what you think in the comments below, or over on the Facebook wall