BY | February 17, 2012

There is a tumult over the privacy of data that iPhone users share over their Apple smartphone and finally the fruity firm seems to have given in to the pressure. This Wednesday it responded to the complaints lodged by iPhone users that iPhone apps have been accessing, transmitting and storing user contact data without any explicit permission.

The response of Apple that soon all apps would be required to take a solid green signal from the users before they can use their contact data should placate the irate and privacy-sensitive users of iPhone.

Tom Neumayr, an Apple spokesperson, said, “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.”

Immediately after Apple posted this statement, an inquiry from Congress was launched that showed concerns about the issue involving developers of Apple’s operating system iOS.

Congressmen Henry Waxman (D., Calif.) and G.K. Butterfield (D., N.C.) wrote a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook in which was mentioned, “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. How many iOS apps in the U.S. iTunes Store transmit information from the address book? How many of those ask for the user’s consent before transmitting their contacts’ information?”

Apple further said, “Apps that collect or transmit a user’s contact data without their prior permission are in violation of our guidelines. 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.”

The Congressmen wrote the letter when a social-networking app called Path was found by a Singaporean developer to be uploading its contacts’ names and phone numbers onto Path’s servers. This stirred an uproar over privacy issues and many apps of iPhone were scrutinized. It was then found that apps like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Foodspotting regularly uploaded user data without the user’s permission.

This is the first time that Apple has come under such strict spotlight and criticism over security issues. The Congressmen also cited the Path instance in their letter, stating that this issue “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 also mentioned the finding of an independent blogger named Dustin Curtis.

Curtis had written in his blog that “there’s a quiet understanding among many iOS app developers that it is acceptable to send a user’s entire address book, without their permission to remote servers and then store it for future reference.” He also wrote that he was unable to “think of a rational reason for why Apple has not placed any protections on Address Book in iOS.”

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