Commerce Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee Chair G.K. Butterfield and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman recently sent a letter to Apple probing the company in regards to privacy concerns. The legislators are worried about Apple’s willingness to allow the social network Path to automatically upload a user’s entire address book to its servers without asking permission first. “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,” the letter, addressed to Apple CEO Tim Cook, said.
Apple addressed the whole debacle in a response to AllThingsD on Wednesday. “Apps that collect or transmit a user’s contact data without their prior permission are in violation of our guidelines,” Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr told AllThingsD. “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.”
Path’s feature was automatically enabled so that users could quickly find and stay in touch with their friends and family, and Path has already apologized for the issue. “Through the feedback we’ve received from all of you, we now understand that the way we had designed our ‘Add Friends’ feature was wrong,” Path CEO Dave Morin said in an earlier blog post. “We are deeply sorry if you were uncomfortable with how our application used your phone contacts,” he added, noting that Path has completely wiped its servers of all private contact list data.
Path isn’t alone in collecting and storing private data, however. The Los Angeles Times on Wednesday reported that Twitter actually stores each user’s iPhone contact list on its servers for a total of 18 months.