Senator Pushes for FTC Investigation into iOS, Android Privacy

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) has asked the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to launch an investigation into Apple and Google’s practices to ensure user privacy on mobile devices. His request follows reports that the platforms allow apps to upload personal data such as contacts and photos without user consent.

Senator Schumer wants FTC to investigate mobile privacySenator Schumer wants FTC to investigate mobile privacy

Concerns over mobile privacy flared up again after news that iOS apps can upload user’s contact database to remote servers without any warning. That was followed by a report that developers have access to user’s photo libraries, too.

Reports initially targeted Apple’s iOS for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch as the primary problem, although word later surfaced that Android-based devices have similar potential privacy issues.

“These uses go well beyond what a reasonable user understands himself to be consenting to when he allows an app to access data on the phone for purposes of the app’s functionality,” Senator Schumer said in his letter, according to Reuters.

He added that uploading contacts and photos to developer’s servers without direct consent violates the terms of service for both platforms, although its unclear what Apple and Google are doing to enforce those rules.

Apple has already endorsed a set of privacy protection principles for mobile devices. Along with Microsoft, HP, Google, Amazon and RIM, Apple will be working to refine the guidelines related to mobile privacy and to make it more obvious when users are sharing personal information with developers.

The Senator echoed those ideas in his FTC letter by stating, “smartphone makers should be required to put in place safety measures to ensure third party applications are not able to violate a user’s personal privacy by stealing photographs or data that the user did not consciously decide to make public.”

Apple has not commented on Senator Schumer’s FTC investigation request.