Congress asks, Apple replies: Changes coming to address book security

With the news continuously being beaten over our heads the last couple of weeks, from journalists and bloggers alike, it was only a matter of time until someone on Capitol Hill took the opportunity to publicly ask Apple about the address book security and privacy concerns surrounding Path, and a very large number of applications on the App Store.

For those uninitiated, Path was caught uploading users’ entire contact lists to its servers, which isn’t uncommon in the industry unfortunately. Path updated its app, and began asking for users’ permission before grabbing the contact information.

Reps. G.K. Butterfield, and Henry A. Waxman wrote an open letter to Tim Cook today, asking what Apple’s stance is on the matter, and what, if anything, can be done to protect consumers’ privacy and security (read the full letter here). The letter goes on to ask nine questions, ranging from iOS App Store guideline questions to why Apple lets customers turn off location services but not address book transmissions. All pretty par for the course questions that could probably be found by reading through Apple’s guidelines for iOS.

It didn’t take long for Apple to respond publicly. Tom Neumayr, an Apple spokesman, reached out to All Things D and told them:

[quote]We’re working to make this even better for our customers, and as we have done with location services, any app wishing to access contact data will require explicit user approval in a future software release.[/quote]

So there you have it. Apple’s obviously aware of the storm brewing in the blogosphere, and they’re obviously looking into solutions to the problem. In hindsight, security measures like the ones people have been clamouring for since hearing about contact information being moved to corporate servers is probably something users should have been given to begin with, but sadly I don’t think too many people, including Apple, would have ever thought companies would go so far as to take contact information without asking users’ permission.

It certainly goes to show just how used to privacy pilfering today’s Facebook generation is these days. In-depth information on the theft of contact information has been around for months, and no one seemed to care, but now we get five or six articles a day on the topic. Go figure.

Also, nothing like getting your name in the press… eh guys? Any of you geniuses in congress think to ask Facebook what they’re doing with all of our information?

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