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Apple Pressed About App Privacy Concerns

February 15, 2012

If executives of the social media application maker Path thought that lawmakers were going to ignore reports that their service secretly downloaded the address books of Apple iPhone users, they were surely mistaken. However, it isn't Path that's drawn the attention of two senior Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. It's iPhone maker Apple.

Energy and Commerce ranking member Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee ranking member G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., say Path may not be alone, according to news reports, and that other iPhone apps may be collecting similar information without user knowledge. The lawmakers want to know whether Apple privately condones such conduct, and if not, what steps the company is taking to ensure app makers are respecting their users' privacy.

"This incident raises questions about whether Apple's iOS app developer policies and practices may fall short when it comes to protecting the information of iPhone users and their contacts," Waxman and Butterfield wrote in a letter Wednesday to Apple CEO Tim Cook, which also was sent to Path CEO Dave Morin.

The lawmakers have requested information from Apple by the end of the month about what information app makers can access from users without their permission, criteria Apple uses to approve apps, how many apps makers transmit data about users, whether it considers an address book to be data about a user that requires permission before it is accessed, and how many apps makers access users' address books.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment .

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