U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce Questions Apple on Accuracy of App Store Privacy Labels

The U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce this week sent a letter to Apple [PDF] inquiring about the accuracy of the App Privacy labels that Apple asked developers to start adding to apps back in December.

app store privacy labels iphone 12
In the letter, the committee asks Apple about reports suggesting that some App Privacy labels are offering "misleading and false information." The query was prompted by a January story from The Washington Post that found over a dozen apps with inaccurate privacy labels.

Apple requires developers to provide information on all of the data that an app collects, but developers are self-submitting the privacy label details on an honor system, without verification from Apple itself. Apple has said that it routinely audits the information that's provided and works with developers to correct inaccuracies, but it's impossible for the company to verify every app's privacy listing.

App developers that do get audited and are found to have failed to disclose accurate privacy information can have future app updates rejected or in some situations, the apps can be removed from the App Store entirely if not brought into compliance.

Committee members Frank Pallone and Jan Schakowsky told Apple that a privacy label is "no protection if it is false," in the letter that urges Apple to improve App Privacy labels.

"According to recent reports, App Privacy labels can be highly misleading or blatantly false. Using software that logs data transmitted to trackers, a reporter discovered that approximately one third of evaluated apps that said they did not collect data had inaccurate labels. A privacy label is no protection if it is false. We urge Apple to improve the validity of its App Privacy labels to ensure consumers are provided meaningful information about their apps' data practices and that consumers are not harmed by these potentially deceptive practices."

Apple has been asked to provide the following details on its App Privacy system:

  • Details on the process by which Apple audits the privacy information provided by app developers and how frequently audits are conducted;
  • How many of the apps audited since the implementation of the App Privacy label were found to have provided inaccurate or misleading information;
  • Whether Apple ensures that App Privacy labels are corrected upon the discovery of inaccuracies or misleading information; and
  • Details regarding Apple's enforcement policies when an app fails to provide accurate privacy information for the App Privacy label.

The committee asks that Apple send the requested information by February 23, so Apple has two weeks to craft a response.

Note: Due to the political or social nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Political News forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Top Rated Comments

Seoras Avatar
18 weeks ago
Am I alone in asking "why?". App Privacy Labels are ground breaking stuff and it's only weeks old.
Would it be too cynical to assume that those not happy with being forced to 'fess up about what their apps are doing are behind this through some form of lobbying?
Score: 26 Votes (Like | Disagree)
nexesnex Avatar
18 weeks ago

Am I alone in asking "why?". App Privacy Labels are ground breaking stuff and it's only weeks old.
Would it be too cynical to assume that those not happy with being forced to 'fess up about what their apps are doing are behind this through some form of lobbying?
Totally agree. Seems a little opportunistic of these politicians to subject Apple to such scrutiny so early.... It's like "Dear Apple, we never really cared when you didn't offer privacy info, but now that you do, you need to do everything right in week one."
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
eicca Avatar
18 weeks ago
Meanwhile, what is the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce doing about Facebook, Google, etc harvesting and selling user data by the truckload?
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
grjj Avatar
18 weeks ago
where's the letter to Amazon:

Dear Human simulant,

We are curious about reports that many of the products on your site are labelled as authentic but customers receive counterfeit product when paying the full brand name price. We would like answers to the following questions:


* Details on the process by which Amazon audits the description provided by product sellers and how frequently audits are conducted;
* How many of the products audited since were found to have provided inaccurate or misleading information;
* Whether Amazon ensures that descriptions of products are corrected upon the discovery of inaccuracies or misleading information; and
* Details regarding Amazon's enforcement policies when an product description fails to provide accurate information for the actual product
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
GuruZac Avatar
18 weeks ago
I’m enjoying this seemingly global crackdown on Big Tech. Whether it’s just posturing by governments is yet to be determined, however.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
MauiPa Avatar
18 weeks ago
It seems the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce must back the idea of Privacy labeling if they want to know why developer submitted data is not accurate. Facebook is whining that they have to disclose data, and now the committee seems to be saying Apple should have more enforcement teeth. will the committee come out in favor of proper disclosures, and what about penalties to bad actors?
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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