Senator Asks Apple and Google to Require Clear Privacy Policies for Apps

Discussion in ' News Discussion' started by MacRumors, May 25, 2011.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001


    Following up on testimony from Apple and Google representatives regarding mobile privacy, U.S. Senator Al Franken has sent out a letter (PDF) to Apple and Google requesting that the companies require developers to include "clear and understandable" privacy policies for apps available in their marketplaces.
    Franken notes that the action would not resolve privacy concerns related to mobile apps, but would be an easy and reasonable first step to ensure that customers have appropriate information about what information is being collected and how it is being used.

    At a minimum, Franken requests that such privacy policies be required of location-aware applications, although he believes that all applications should be subject to the requirement.
    Franken has been spearheading legislators' inquiries into mobile privacy since last month's high-profile disclosure of geolocation data being stored on users' devices and in backups on their computers. His initial letter to Apple kicked off congressional interest in the topic and led to the hearing earlier this month attended by Apple's Bud Tribble, Google's Alan Davidson, and several other experts and privacy advocates.

    Article Link: Senator Asks Apple and Google to Require Clear Privacy Policies for Apps
  2. shadygrove macrumors regular

    Mar 8, 2010
    What a joke. The politicians should force each other to write "clear and understandable" legislation that isn't 2,000 lines long the average isn't capable of comprehending. As always, hypocritical politicians getting in the way.
  3. Xtremehkr macrumors 68000


    Jul 4, 2004
    Al Franken (Senator Internet) is doing a commendable job of protecting consumers in the digital world. He's doing great work in terms of protecting net neutrality and keeping the internet open.

    Apple and Google could save themselves a lot of future problems by agreeing on these standards early and through protecting the privacy of their consumers.

    It's only going to take one good event involving a data breach or personal information breach due to lack of digital privacy/security before the public really starts demanding that something be done to protect them from malicious programmers.
  4. Jazwire macrumors 6502a


    Jun 20, 2009
  5. Krevnik macrumors 68030


    Sep 8, 2003
    The problem is that Apple is actually right on this one when they were asked previously: It isn't enough. The issue of enforcement is one that Fraken is currently hand-waving away and ignoring. Enforcement won't catch all the situations where a developer may lie about the data transfer. How do I validate what an app sends back to the mothership through an encrypted channel, for example?

    What Apple has been doing instead is allowing the user to mis-trust the developer and lock them out of the location information if the app asks for it. That is easy to enforce and puts the power in the hands of the user. Unfortunately, it doesn't help situations where an app with legitimate reasons to access the information also uses it for more nefarious purposes, but depending on how nefarious, a privacy policy requirement isn't going to stop it.
  6. Doctor Q Administrator

    Doctor Q

    Staff Member

    Sep 19, 2002
    Los Angeles
    I'm glad it's a question, not a demand, since it's a topic that deserves discussion and involves tradeoffs.

    What information should be considered private? What are apps doing with our information? How should we be told about it? What control should we have?

    For example, should our location data be shared with the world except where we opt-out or should it be completely protected and hidden to everyone else except where we opt-in? How should responsibility for privacy be shared among us the consumers, app developers, gadget vendors, and laws?
  7. RafaelT macrumors 65816


    Jun 9, 2010
    Lakeland, FL
    I think this is a good thing... but at the same time it doesn't seem like the most pressing issue they could be dealing with right now. I think our country has a few other things they could be working on.

    There is also nothing stopping an app from putting out a privacy policy that says one thing and doing something else. Whenever I put my info online or in an app I don't expect that what I put in there is going to stay secret. If I am not comfortable having info known then I don't put it out there.

    and +1 to the poster who talked about them writing there bills and legislation in plain English.
  8. mcmlxix macrumors 6502a

    Mar 10, 2009
    My Senator Franken is a joke and a hypocrite. Privacy? What about the "Patriot" Act dear Senator?
  9. WestonHarvey1 macrumors 68020

    Jan 9, 2007
    What's next? A Federal Software Agency?

    We did fine for decades without one, but I guess here it comes.
  10. Xtremehkr, May 25, 2011
    Last edited: May 25, 2011

    Xtremehkr macrumors 68000


    Jul 4, 2004
    Would you rather have Apple and Google address this situation, or the government?

    All it's going to take is one major security scandal to have consumers demanding more protections in the digital world. At that point the government will fell compelled to step in.

    I think it would be a good idea if Apple and Google took care of this problem themselves.

    Apple, already, largely fulfills this function but there are ways around it. If everything has to go through an Apple cloud, it seems like Apple could have a pretty good handle on information flow.
  11. Virtualball macrumors 6502

    Jun 5, 2006
    The hypocrisy of my country is disgusting. We ask Apple and Google to tell users why their locations are tracked for FEATURES THEY SIGNED UP FOR, but then sign another 4 years of an unamended Patriot Act. Why are my politicians even paid to care about whether Angry Birds knows where I am? What a sad waste of tax dollars. Seriously, **** this place.
  12. Small White Car macrumors G4

    Small White Car

    Aug 29, 2006
    Washington DC
    I like how a Senator can ask a company to simply be honest with their customers and it somehow sets off the MacRumors community as an unreasonable outrage.

    What a place we got here, huh?
  13. err404 macrumors 68020

    Mar 4, 2007
    While I agree that clear policies are beneficial to users, this seems hypocritical. The obfuscation of policies is far worse in any government agency or legal system.
  14. WestonHarvey1 macrumors 68020

    Jan 9, 2007
    It's the same thing at this point. "We'll give you a chance to do what we want you to do of your own free will, but if you don't, we'll force you to do it." Doesn't sound much like it is in the spirit of free choice to me.
  15. dgree03 macrumors 65816


    Jan 8, 2009
    Google already gives CLEAR instruction on an apps function before you install anything.

    Its apple that is lacking here.
  16. WestonHarvey1 macrumors 68020

    Jan 9, 2007
    Can't we figure this out ourselves? Read reviews after the tech sites pick them apart? Use some common sense and be skeptical? Do we really need government doing this for us?
  17. Small White Car macrumors G4

    Small White Car

    Aug 29, 2006
    Washington DC
    Are you kidding? Google is the king of data mining. What do they know about Android users? Who do they sell it to? Why are they SO insistant that all Android phones have Google Maps on them? Clearly they're making money from that being on your phone. How, exactly? Do they know what stores I'm visiting? I dunno, I've never seen them explain all that. Have you? Where do they list it all?
  18. Xtremehkr macrumors 68000


    Jul 4, 2004
    Except when it's consumer driven because people are tired of losing information or money.

    Then, due to a lack of action on issues of security/privacy, it will become regulated.

    'Doing nothing' isn't a solution.
  19. ktappe macrumors regular


    Oct 10, 2003
    Wilmington, DE

    If Franken is so concerned with protecting privacy, then why does he keep supporting the extension of the PATRIOT act that allows the government to invade the privacy of American citizens? Serious double-standard there. :confused:
  20. phillipduran macrumors 65816


    Apr 30, 2008
  21. Consultant macrumors G5


    Jun 27, 2007
    It'll be easy for Apple to comply. Apple's goal is to make user happy to sell devices.

    Google's goal is to sell user information to advertisers.
  22. mytdave macrumors 6502

    Oct 29, 2002

    Oh goodie! Force everyone to write a policy. A policy will protect everyone - yea right.

    I prefer Apple's approach to have a location services notification part of the API - so when an app wants to use location services it has to notify the user to accept the function. Simple.

    Nobody is going to read a privacy policy before they click thru on the dialogue. If people want to read a mile long policy written by monkeys, the developer can optionally provide a link to such in the app's info section.
  23. blackpond macrumors 6502a

    Mar 31, 2008
    Consumer protection equals a few lines of text buried in a multi-page privacy policy that nobody reads?

    If they want users 'protected' from this evil location tracking they should sound an air raid siren and pop up a few hundred confirmation dialog boxes every time an application asks for location information.

    Then show video clips of kittens being eaten by hawks and some old lady without a voice box telling her story about how location tracking ruined her life.

    yes... that ought to do it.
  24. ppc_michael Guest


    Apr 26, 2005
    Los Angeles, CA
    Definitely sounds reasonable to me. I don't understand why so many people here seem to be against a request for a clear, understandable contract.

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