Tech Industry

Privacy invasion: There's an app for that

week in review Following Path flap, Apple resets guidelines on how iOS apps collect user data. Plus: digging into the spectrum "crisis."


You'd think by now that tech companies would have figured out how to do right by you when it comes to privacy. But no, not so much, not when your personal data is just soooo tempting.

Matters came to a head this week when Apple announced a change to its developer guidelines--it said iOS applications that collect user contact data break its rules and that a software fix, coming at an unspecified date, will prohibit this behavior. That followed the controversy that erupted earlier in the month, when Path--a popular iOS and Android app--was found to be collecting user contact information without permission. And this week as well, Twitter fessed up that it uploads and stores the contact list data of many app users for 18 months without an explicit heads-up.

The data privacy issue is big enough to have prompted U.S. lawmakers to take notice. Just ahead of Apple's announcement, it became known that a subcommittee in the House of Representatives had written to Apple this week, asking why it doesn't force app developers to ask users for permission before downloading contacts.

Developers seem to think that Apple's new mandate to get user permission before address book uploads shouldn't be too much of a burden; apps would have to be updated rather than overhauled.

Still, did it really need to come to this? CNET's Charles Cooper points out that this is unlikely to be the end of the matter, and asks the question: Until all this gets figured out, why would anyone trust Apple, developers, or Congress to do the right thing? It's not like we haven't seen this sort of mess many times in the not-so-distant past.
•  Apple: Apps using address data are in violation, fix to come
•  Lawmakers ask Apple to explain iPhone app privacy policies
•  Apple iOS developers: We'll adjust to privacy change
•  'App-gate' serves reminder: You're on your own
•  Yeesh, Silicon Valley, another fine mess you've gotten us into
•  Privacy dilemma for developers: Apple to the rescue?
•  FTC: Mobile apps for kids lack privacy disclosures
•  What do Path's privacy violations mean for Android?

More headlines

Might Apple lose the iPad trademark? Welcome to the Twilight Zone

It seems improbable, but a struggling Chinese monitor maker is working the system to regain one of the world's best-known trademarks.
•  Apple threatened with $2B lawsuit in iPad dispute
•  Paperwork from Chinese iPad trademark sale emerges
•  A ban on iPads in China? Not a chance, Beijing says

Apple Mac OS X 'Mountain Lion' takes more bites out of iOS

Apple's giving developers a preview of the next version of Mac OS X today called Mountain Lion. The software, due out this summer, once again brings over features from Apple's iOS.
•  Mountain Lion developer preview (screenshots)
•  What's left for Apple's OS X to grab from iOS?
•  Video: Mac OS X: Mountain Lion

How politics inflames the 'spectrum crisis'

The FCC's National Broadband Plan was supposed to add spectrum for wireless data growth. But thanks to political infighting, the feds have little to show for the effort two years on.
•  Spectrum crunch: All talk, no action, and consumers suffer
•  Dish looks to FCC for cues on its spectrum strategy
•  FCC suspends LightSquared waiver over GPS interference

Cook: Apple's improved working conditions more than anyone

Apple CEO Tim Cook, speaking at an investor conference, defended the company's track record and its process of manufacturing hit products like the iPhone.
•  Apple's Tim Cook talks shop with Goldman Sachs
•  Are Chinese factory workers getting just $8 for every iPad sale?
•  FLA chief calls Foxconn facilities 'first class'
•  Apple labor petitioners to make deliveries again next week

Could Google Wallet be Google's next failure?

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•  Google Wallet fixes prepaid card security bug

CNET Review: Sony PlayStation Vita

Overall, the PS Vita is the most advanced portable gaming system ever made, and gamers will get an impressively complete package right out of the gate.
•  Early adopters, rejoice! PlayStation Vita available now
•  PlayStation Vita and the complexity conundrum
•  Will the PlayStation Vita OS land on smartphones, tablets?

Also of note
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•  'Reverse smudge engineering' foils Android unlock security
•  Jonathan Schwartz unveils startup, talks about final days at Sun