Congressmen Send Inquiries to 34 App Developers Over Privacy Practices

Representatives Henry A. Waxman (D-CA) and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) have sent letters to thirty-four app developers with a number of questions about their information collection and use practices. This follows on a letter from the Congressmen sent to Apple requesting information on the company's data collection policies it imposes on App Store developers.

The letters were sent to a wide variety of developers, and were selected by the Representatives on the basis of "their inclusion in the “Social Networking” subcategory within the “iPhone Essentials” area of Apple’s App Store." They include Turntable.FM, Twitter, Tweetbot, Path, Instagram, Facebook, and Apple itself.

congressletter

Last month, a developer of applications ("apps") for Apple's mobile devices discovered that the social networking app Path was accessing and collecting the contents of his iPhone address book without having asked for his consent. Following the reports about Path, developers and members of the press ran their own small-scale tests of the code for other popular apps for Apple's mobile devices to determine which were accessing address book information. Around this time, three other apps released new versions to include a prompt asking for users' consent before accessing the address book. In addition, concerns were subsequently raised about the manner in which apps can access photographs on Apple's mobile devices.

We are writing to you because we want to better understand the information collection and use policies and practices of apps for Apple's mobile devices with a social element. We request that you respond to the following questions:

(1) Through the end of February 2012, how many times was your iOS app downloaded from Apple's App Store?

(2) Did you have a privacy policy in place for your iOS app at the end of February 2012? If so, please tell us when your iOS app was first made available in Apple's App Store and when you first had a privacy policy in place. In addition, please describe how that policy is made available to your app users and please provide a copy of the most recent policy.

(3) Has your iOS app at any time transmitted information from or about a user's address book? If so, which fields? Also, please describe all measures taken to protect or secure that information during transmission and the periods of time during which those measures were in effect.

(4) Have you at any time stored information from or about a user's address book? If so, which field? Also, please describe all measures taken to protect or secure that information during storage and the periods of time during which those measures were in effect.

(5) At any time, has your iOS app transmitted or have you stored any other information from or about a user's device - including, but not limited to, the user's phone number, email account information, calendar, photo gallery, WiFi connection log, the Unique Device Identifier (UDID), a Media Access Control (MAC) address, or any other identifier unique to a specific device?

(6) To the extent you store any address book information or any of the information in question 5, please describe all purposes for which you store or use that information, the length of time for which you keep it, and your policies regarding sharing of that information.

(7) To the extent you transmit or store any address book information or any of the information in question 5, please describe all notices delivered to uscrs on the mobile device screen about your collection and use practices both prior to and after February 8, 2012.

(8) The iOS Developer Program License Agreement detailing the obligations and responsibilities of app developers reportedly states that a developer and its applications "may not collect user or device data without prior user consent, and then only to provide a service or function that is directly relevant to the use of the Application, or to serve advertising.";

(a) Please describe all data available from Apple mobile devices that you understand to be user data requiring prior consent from the user to be collected.

(b) Please describe all data available from Apple mobile devices that you understand to be device data requiring prior consent from the user to be collected.

(c) Please describe all services or functions for which user or device data is directly relevant to the use of your application.

(9) Please list all industry self-regulatory organizations to which you belong.

The developers are given until April 12, 2012 to respond.

Top Rated Comments

basesloaded190 Avatar
133 months ago
Tax dollars well spent...
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jlgolson Avatar
133 months ago
So what happens if they do not respond?
It's merely a request for information. They are not obligated to respond.

However, if they are sent a subpoena to appear in front of the committee, they are required to show up and can be held in contempt if they don't. Most folks don't want to piss off Congress so they cooperate if they haven't done anything wrong.

But call your lawyers!
To reply to an earlier commenter, this is already a witch hunt based on these letters.
Fishing expedition more than a witch hunt.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
alphaod Avatar
133 months ago
So what happens if they do not respond?

I imagine people get sent to labor camps.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
croooow Avatar
133 months ago
So what happens if they do not respond?
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Porco Avatar
133 months ago
Dear politicians,

We'd really love to give you all the information you request, but unfortunately our privacy policy requires a court order before we reveal any information pertaining to our users in any way.

Yours,

App developers.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
JHankwitz Avatar
133 months ago
They should be sending these questions to the FBI and CIA to determine how much personal and private information about us is being collected by their kinfolk. I would guess that Apple Apps pale in comparison.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

Prosser Series 8 3

Apple Watch Series 8 Rumored to Feature New Design With Flat Display

Wednesday May 18, 2022 6:21 am PDT by
The Apple Watch Series 8 could feature an all-new design with a flat display, according to the leaker known as "ShrimpApplePro." In his latest video on the YouTube channel Front Page Tech, Jon Prosser highlighted information from ShrimpApplePro that suggests the Apple Watch Series 8 could feature a flat display in what seems to be a design originally rumored for the Apple Watch Series 7. ...
anker 563 dock ports

Anker's Latest USB-C Docking Station Brings Triple-Display Support to M1 Macs

Wednesday May 18, 2022 7:06 am PDT by
While Apple's early M1-based Macs can only officially support a single external display, there are ways around the limitation. Anker is launching a new 10-in-1 USB-C docking station today which delivers just that. The Anker 563 USB-C dock includes two HDMI ports and a DisplayPort port, and it leverages DisplayLink to carry multiple video signals over a single connection. Given that this hub...
macOS Monterey 2

Apple Releases macOS Monterey 12.4 With Support for Studio Display Webcam Update

Monday May 16, 2022 10:10 am PDT by
Apple today released macOS Monterey 12.4, the fourth major update to the macOS Monterey operating system that launched in October 2021. macOS Monterey 12.4 comes over two months after the launch of macOS Monterey 12.3, an update that added Universal Control. The ‌‌‌‌‌macOS Monterey‌‌ 12.4 update can be downloaded on all eligible Macs using the Software Update section of System...
Whatsapp Feature

WhatsApp to Let Users Leave Group Chats 'Silently' and View Rich Link Previews in Status Updates

Tuesday May 17, 2022 3:07 am PDT by
WhatsApp is working on a new feature that will allow users to "silently" leave group chats hosted by the messaging platform instead of all members of the group being notified when they do. As it stands, when someone leaves a group chat, WhatsApp announces their exit to the entire group, making the act of leaving very public. It's not possible right now to leave a group quietly, but WhatsApp...
apple data auction iphone privacy ad

Apple Highlights iPhone's Latest Privacy Features in New 'Data Auction' Ad

Wednesday May 18, 2022 9:00 am PDT by
Apple today shared a new ad highlighting iPhone privacy features like App Tracking Transparency and Mail Privacy Protection that are designed to give users more transparency and control when it comes to their personal data being collected. The ad revolves around a young woman named Ellie who discovers that her personal data is being sold at an auction house, with bids being placed on her...
airpodsproinear

Apple Facing Lawsuit After AirPods Allegedly Ruptured Child's Eardrums With Amber Alert

Tuesday May 17, 2022 11:40 am PDT by
Apple's AirPods ruptured the eardrums of a 12-year-old boy in 2020 when a loud Amber Alert was issued, according to a lawsuit filed against Apple in California (via Law360). The child, identified as B.G. in the filing, was watching a movie on Netflix on his iPhone in 2020 while wearing AirPods Pro. The AirPods Pro were allegedly set at a low volume, but an Amber Alert sounded without warning ...
apple store palo alto

Apple Reinstating Employee Mask Mandate at Approximately 100 U.S. Retail Stores

Tuesday May 17, 2022 11:11 am PDT by
Apple retail employees at around 100 stores will need to go back to wearing a mask while working, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. Apple is mandating masks for employees again due to a rising number of COVID cases across the United States. Customers who visit an Apple Store are not required to wear a mask at this time, but Apple is continuing to recommend masks for all Apple Store...