Apple's New App Store Guidelines Restrict Apps From Harvesting Data From iPhone Users' Friends

Apple last week updated its App Store Review Guidelines for developers after unveiling iOS 12, introducing rules for remote mirroring apps, banning cryptocurrency mining, and introducing clear rules to allow developers to provide free trials for paid apps.

At the same time, Apple also quietly expanded its data sharing rules, as Bloomberg points out, introducing strict new guidelines that prevent app developers from collecting user data to build advertising profiles or contact databases. The rules also prohibit apps from harvesting data from an iPhone user's contacts. From Apple's updated 5.1.2 data sharing guidelines:

(iii) Apps should not attempt to surreptitiously build a user profile based on collected data and may not attempt, facilitate, or encourage others to identify anonymous users or reconstruct user profiles based on data collected from Apple-provided APIs or any data that you say has been collected in an "anonymized," "aggregated," or otherwise non-identifiable way.

(iv) Do not use information from Contacts, Photos, or other APIs that access user data to build a contact database for your own use or for sale/distribution to third parties, and don't collect information about which other apps are installed on a user's device for the purposes of analytics or advertising/marketing.

(v) Do not contact people using information collected via a user's Contacts or Photos, except at the explicit initiative of that user on an individualized basis; do not include a Select All option or default the selection of all contacts. You must provide the user with a clear description of how the message will appear to the recipient before sending it (e.g. What will the message say? Who will appear to be the sender?).

The wording of the updated 5.1.2 guideline puts an end to secretive data collection techniques, where developers collect data from an iPhone user's contacts and then use it for marketing and advertising purposes. In the past, developers have used iPhone contact lists, which include phone numbers, email addresses, photos, and other information, for unsavory advertising and data collection purposes.

One developer explained to Bloomberg just how much data was accessible and how easily it could be obtained and abused without Apple's knowledge:

"The address book is the Wild West of data,'' the iOS developer said. "I am able to instantly transfer all the contacts info into some random server or upload it to Dropbox if I wanted to, the very moment a user says okay to giving contacts permission. Apple doesn't track it, nor do they know where it went.''

Developers are now expressly forbidden from using apps to build user profiles and contact databases and from misusing contact information and other sensitive user data. Apple has also prohibited apps from sending out mass texts to a user's contact list without explicit user permission. Developers who are caught breaking Apple's new data sharing rules may be banned from the App Store.

The full App Store Guidelines for developers can be viewed on Apple's website.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
26 months ago
So this means Facebook is banned, yeah? lol
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
26 months ago
This is why I almost always say "no" when apps ask for access to my contacts. It feels like selling out my friends.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
26 months ago
This is excellent. I usually forbid apps from accessing my contacts unless I really know the app.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
26 months ago
So they're going to remove Facebook from the App Store right?

EDIT: Or I declare hypocrisy!
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
26 months ago
Unfortunately the cat is out of the bag on this one...but better late than never. All our contact info has been shared by our friends to every big and medium sized company on the planet by now.

As others ask, guess Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp will be banned now?
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
26 months ago
Great deal. Far too many apps allowed your friends to determine if they shared YOUR details. Nothing like someone you haven't seen since high school giving your contact information and all kinds of other stuff to some random advertiser.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Leaker: Apple to Stick With Lightning Over USB-C for 'iPhone 12' Before Going Port-Less Next Year

Tuesday May 26, 2020 2:31 am PDT by
Apple will use a Lightning port instead of USB-C in the upcoming "iPhone 12," but it will be the last major series of Apple's flagship phones to do so, with models set to combine wireless charging and a port-less Smart Connector system for data transfer and syncing in the iPhone "13 series" next year. The above claim comes from occasional Apple leaker and Twitter user "Fudge" (@choco_bit),...

Apple Releases macOS Catalina 10.15.5 With Battery Health Management Features, Fix for Finder Freezing

Tuesday May 26, 2020 1:59 pm PDT by
Apple today released macOS Catalina 10.15.5, the fifth update to the macOS Catalina operating system that was released in October 2019. macOS Catalina 10.15.5 comes two months after the launch of macOS Catalina 10.15.4, which introduced Screen Time Communication Limits. macOS Catalina 10.15.5 is a free update that can be downloaded from the Mac App Store using the Update feature in the...

Apple Reissuing Numerous iOS App Updates, Potentially Related to Recent 'This App is No Longer Shared' Bug

Sunday May 24, 2020 9:13 pm PDT by
Over the past few hours, a number of MacRumors readers have reported seeing dozens or even hundreds of pending app updates showing in the App Store on their iOS devices, including for many apps that were already recently updated by the users. In many cases, the dates listed on these new app updates extend back as far as ten days. Apple has not shared any information as to why updates for...

16-Inch MacBook Pro, iPad Pro, and iMac Pro With Mini-LED Displays Again Rumored to Launch in 2021

Tuesday May 26, 2020 5:30 am PDT by
Apple plans to release several higher-end devices with Mini-LED displays in 2021, including a new 12.9-inch iPad Pro in the first quarter, a new 16-inch MacBook Pro in the second quarter, and a new 27-inch iMac in the second half of the year, according to Jeff Pu, an analyst at Chinese research firm GF Securities. This timeframe lines up with one shared by analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who recently...

Jailbreak Tool 'unc0ver' 5.0 Released With iOS 13.5 Compatibility

Sunday May 24, 2020 3:06 pm PDT by
The team behind the "unc0ver" jailbreaking tool for iOS has released version 5.0.0 of its software that claims to have the ability to jailbreak "every signed iOS version on every device" using a zero-day kernel vulnerability by Pwn20wnd, a renowned iOS hacker. The announcement comes just days after it was announced that the tool would soon launch. The unc0ver website highlights how the tool...

Future AirPods to Include 'Ambient Light Sensors' Possibly Related to Rumored Health Features

Monday May 25, 2020 2:53 am PDT by
Apple is reportedly looking to integrate light sensors in a new model of AirPods in the next couple of years, according to a new report today, suggesting their use could be part of rumored upcoming health monitoring features in the true wireless earbuds. In a paywalled article, DigiTimes reports that ASE Technology could be involved in manufacturing the sensors: Apple is expected to...

First App Using Apple and Google's Exposure Notification API Launches in Switzerland

Tuesday May 26, 2020 3:02 pm PDT by
The first app that takes advantage of the Exposure Notification API developed by Apple and Google has launched in Switzerland, according to a report from the BBC. A team of app developers working on contact tracing app called SwissCovid have rolled out the app in a beta capacity for members of the Swiss army, hospital workers, and civil servants. After the app is tested and approved by MPs,...

'This App is No Longer Shared' iOS Bug Preventing Some Apps From Opening

Friday May 22, 2020 3:58 pm PDT by
An app bug is causing some iOS users to be unable to open their apps, with affected iPhone and iPad users seeing the message "This app is no longer shared with you" when attempting to access an app. There are multiple complaints about the issue on the MacRumors forums and on Twitter from users who are running into problems. A MacRumors reader describes the issue:Is anyone else experiencing...

HBO Max Now Available on Apple TV and iOS Devices

Wednesday May 27, 2020 2:42 am PDT by
HBO Max launched today, and is now available on Apple TV, iPhone, and iPad. WarnerMedia's new streaming service, which replaces HBO Now, combines HBO content with shows and films from Warner Bros and Turner TV. The service is available as a native app on the ‌Apple TV‌ HD and ‌Apple TV‌ 4K, but second and third-generation ‌Apple TV‌ owners will need to AirPlay HBO Max content...

Apple's Pro Display XDR Wins 'Displays of the Year' Award

Tuesday May 26, 2020 7:45 am PDT by
The Society for Information Display today announced its selections for the 26th Annual Display Industry Awards, and Apple has once again taken one of the top spots, this time with its Pro Display XDR that debuted last year alongside the revamped Mac Pro. The Pro Display XDR was one of three display products named "Displays of the Year," alongside Samsung's foldable display and BOE's...