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US Sen. Franken calls on Apple, Google to require app privacy policies

post #1 of 49
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U.S. Sen. Al Franken on Wednesday formally requested that both Apple and Google create privacy policies for all applications available for their respective iOS and Android mobile platforms.

Franken, D-Minn., called on the two companies "to require clear and understandable privacy policies for all of their apps." The letter, addressed to Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs and Google CEO Larry Page, is a follow-up to discussion that took place earlier this month during a Senate hearing in Washington D.C.

At the meeting of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, Franken asked if both Apple and Google would be open to requiring application developers to commit to a fixed privacy policy in their respective mobile application stores.

Apple Vice President of Software Technology Guy L. "Bud" Tribble, participating in the hearing, said that Apple's current developer agreement does not currently require a privacy policy, and that he believes the addition of a policy likely wouldn't go far enough. Instead, Tribble said indicators need to be put into the user interface to make it clear to users what is being done with their information -- a method Apple currently employs with a location services icon that is displayed in iOS-powered devices like the iPhone.

Franken noted on Wednesday that a recent study found that among the top 340 free applications available on mobile devcies, less than 20 percent included a link to a privacy policy. He said that means users who purchase apps have "little knowledge" about what is being done with their personal information.

"Apple and Google have each said time and again that they are committed to protecting users privacy," the senator wrote in a letter to the companies. "This is an easy opportunity for your companies to put that commitment into action."

Franken acknowledged that the implementation of formal policies would not resolve most privacy concerns in the mobile market. But he also argued that it would be a "simple first step" toward protecting personal data.

"Although I believe there is a greater need for transparency and disclosure for the collection and sharing of all personal information, at a minimum, I ask that you require all location-aware applications in your app stores to provide privacy policies that clearly specify what kind of information is being gathered from users, how that information is used, and how it is shared with third parties," Franken's letter to the companies reads. "These apps constitute only a subset of all of the apps available on your stores."



Privacy concerns related to mobile devices gained international attention when a pair of security researchers discovered that Apple's iOS 4 mobile operating system recorded location data and saved it in a hidden file unbeknownst to users. That data was never transmitted to anyone, and the issue was quickly addressed with the release of iOS 4.3.3.

Apple also issued a series of answers about the controversy, and Chief Executive Steve Jobs himself participated in interviews in an attempt to ease concerns. But Apple still faces government investigations on iPhone privacy across the globe, including in France, Germany and Italy.
post #2 of 49
Sen. Al Franken is still an idiot.
post #3 of 49
Note the generic use of the term "app store." Hmm.
post #4 of 49
Hey Al, you must have too much free time as this has become your #1 priority.
post #5 of 49
Are members of the Senate going to request that everyone publish a privacy policy? Don't these guys just need to make a law and create an agency to fine and jail company execs that don't comply? What is this "request" BS. Not calling out Al here as I'd be asking regardless of person, party, state, or State.
post #6 of 49
and then apple fires off the existing link on it's site. 10 seconds of work Al Franken could have done himself.
post #7 of 49
So why are only Apple and Google being targeted? App stores existed long before they came on the scene and there are plenty of others in existence. MS is even creating one for Windows desktop. Are they excused from this?

6 Major App Store Comparison [Infographic] (1.1MB)
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post #8 of 49
I think Al wants to create another department for this so the govn't can hire more workers to bring down the unemployment rate.
post #9 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

So why are only Apple and Google being targeted? App stores existed long before they came on the scene and there are plenty of others in existence. MS is even creating one for Windows desktop. Are they excused from this?

6 Major App Store Comparison [Infographic] (1.1MB)

Because they are, by far, the biggest ones, perhaps? You know, the ones that more than 90% of all mobile app sales go through?

I'm amazed at the opposition here--this can only be good for consumers. There are literally no downsides for us. Now if you're Apple or Google (which I swear to god some of you think you are), then you have a right to be slightly worried as it requires further transparency in exactly how user's data is being used and shared.
post #10 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by redbarchetta View Post

Because they are, by far, the biggest ones, perhaps? You know, the ones that more than 90% of all mobile app sales go through?

According to the infograph Android Market and App Store account for over 96% of the top 6 app stores active as of April. However, that figure isnt the same as the number of unique users that can access those app stores. Symbian followed by BlackBerry clearly has more customers being able to access apps than another system.

But thats beside the point. It sounds like youre saying privacy rights arent worth protecting for the other stores simply because they have less apps to sell. Regardless of how the percentage breaks down either this is about protecting individual rights or its not.
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post #11 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

According to the infograph Android Market and App Store account for over 96% of the top 6 app stores active as of April. However, that figure isnt the same as the number of unique users that can access those app stores. Symbian followed by BlackBerry clearly has more customers being able to access apps than another system.

But theoretical numbers are meaningless compared to the reality. Yes, BlackBerry customers CAN download apps. Most don't. And the ones that do are far fewer in numbers. And they're declining in numbers; it's clear that the momentum is on Apple's and Google's side.

Regardless, just because Al didn't target every App maker on the planet doesn't, in any way, negate his point. Instead, it just offense some of the die-hards who believe an attack on Apple is an attack on themselves.

Btw, that infograph either has some inaccuracies or is way out of date, as they peg Apple's app store at half the apps that it currently has.
post #12 of 49
I used to be a Franken fan but his unyielding support of the PATRIOT act has made me do a 180. If he is so concerned about privacy that he starts attacking Apple and Google, WTF was he doing supporting the extension of a bill that allows the government nearly unfettered access to the private lives of American citizens?!?
post #13 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by redbarchetta View Post

But theoretical numbers are meaningless compared to the reality.

Hence my query and focus on platforms with the MOST unique users, not a theoretical potential from apps users may or may not download from an app store.

Quote:
Yes, BlackBerry customers CAN download apps. Most don't.

Now youre making generalizations that are meaningless compared to reality.

Again, why shouldnt all users not have their rights protected?

Quote:
Btw, that infograph either has some inaccuracies or is way out of date, as they peg Apple's app store at half the apps that it currently has.

It is out of date, but I think the 6 biggest app stores are still the 6 biggest, save for perhaps Apples Mac App Store.

They had 350,000 as of January 2011. I dont know what they have now but I dont think its the 500,000 youre probably thinking of.
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post #14 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Now you’re making generalizations that are meaningless compared to reality.

That wasn't a generalization; it's a fact. But it's convenient that you ignored my next point which addressed, but didn't excuse, this:

"Regardless, just because Al didn't target every App maker on the planet doesn't, in any way, negate his point. Instead, it just offense some of the die-hards who believe an attack on Apple is an attack on themselves."

Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Again, why shouldn’t all users not have their rights protected?.

I never said they shouldn't. This is still a step in the right direction.

Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

They had 350,000 as of January 2011. I don’t know what they have now but I don’t think it’s the 500,000 you’re probably thinking of.

It is, actually. This very site reported on it just a few days ago:
http://www.appleinsider.com/articles...ps_report.html
post #15 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by redbarchetta View Post

I never said they shouldn't. This is still a step in the right direction.

What you said is that anyone that disagrees with Frankens motives are "die-hards who believe an attack on Apple is an attack on themselves. while implying that an attack on Apple is a good thing for customers. Yet youve ignored that this is also going after Google (which I addressed) and that its not going after anyone else (which Ive addressed).

Quote:
It is, actually. This very site reported on it just a few days ago:
http://www.appleinsider.com/articles...ps_report.html

No it wasnt. Read the article not just the headlines. It clearly states there are only about 400,000 apps in the App Store.
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post #16 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

They had 350,000 as of January 2011. I don’t know what they have now but I don’t think it’s the 500,000 you’re probably thinking of.

Most of the major Mac-oriented websites had big "500,000 apps" headlines this week. That's the takeaway and the # Apple will be tossing around.
post #17 of 49
I don't understand why more transparency should be a problem. To quote Eric Schmidt:

"If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

Why not share the information with the users which data is gathered, shared with 3rd party and for what it is used for?
A trustworthy company has nothing to hide in in this respect.
A privacy policy sounds nice but I fear it will lead to those twenty pages of legal phrasing. I'd prefer a short description of what, for which purpose, shared with whom in the privacy section of an app near by a button with which I can turn it on and off.
This might be a way to turn down a lot of unnecessary paranoia.
post #18 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

What you said is that anyone that disagrees with Franken’s motives are "die-hards who believe an attack on Apple is an attack on themselves.” while implying that an attack on Apple is a good thing for customers. Yet you’ve ignored that this is also going after Google (which I addressed) and that it’s not going after anyone else (which I’ve addressed).

First of all, you're twisting my words. I never said "anyone who disagrees." You cut out the part that clearly states that "it just offends some of the die-hards who believe an attack on Apple is an attack on themselves," which is seemingly true based on this thread, which is whom I was addressing it.

Secondly, where did I "ignore this is also going after Google"? I quite clearly refer to them both twice (an equal amount) in my first post, which you've seemed to have forgotten. Here's the quote again:

Quote:
Originally Posted by me

Because they are, by far, the biggest ones, perhaps? You know, the ones that more than 90% of all mobile app sales go through?

I'm amazed at the opposition here--this can only be good for consumers. There are literally no downsides for us. Now if you're Apple or Google (which I swear to god some of you think you are), then you have a right to be slightly worried as it requires further transparency in exactly how user's data is being used and shared.

You still haven't explained why they need to target everyone at once for this to be a valid argument to propose? Again, I reiterate that just because Al didn't target every App maker on the planet doesn't, in any way, negate his point.

There are zero downsides to consumers based on this, hence why any defense of Apple or Google based on this seems purely a knee-jerk reaction.
post #19 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cinemagic View Post

Sen. Al Franken is still an idiot.

Please explain. I find him an extremely effective and thoughtful US Senator.
post #20 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by redbarchetta View Post

Because they are, by far, the biggest ones, perhaps? You know, the ones that more than 90% of all mobile app sales go through?

I'm amazed at the opposition here--this can only be good for consumers. There are literally no downsides for us. Now if you're Apple or Google (which I swear to god some of you think you are), then you have a right to be slightly worried as it requires further transparency in exactly how user's data is being used and shared.

The downside is that we are paying Sen. Al Franken and the like from our tax dollars. They are also people who control our lives through their legislation. If someone wants to take my tax dollars and control my life, I'd like them to be thouroughly informed and be reasonable intelligent. Unfortunately, Al Franken is not informed, does not care to be informed, and seems to care more about media coverage than the people who elected him.
post #21 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by redbarchetta View Post

There are zero downsides to consumers based on this, hence why any defense of Apple or Google based on this seems purely a knee-jerk reaction.

Let see

1) because singling out the companies with the biggest mindshare without looking for the biggest offenders isnt good governing, only good for grandstanding.

2) because the big picture is that the majority of users being ignored by Franken on this issue, not to mention more important and pressing issues of privacy that arent being addressed.

3) there are downsides if he could have protected everyone but instead only protected those who can get him reelected.
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post #22 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by redbarchetta View Post

Because they are, by far, the biggest ones, perhaps? You know, the ones that more than 90% of all mobile app sales go through?

I'm amazed at the opposition here--this can only be good for consumers. There are literally no downsides for us. Now if you're Apple or Google (which I swear to god some of you think you are), then you have a right to be slightly worried as it requires further transparency in exactly how user's data is being used and shared.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Morky View Post

Please explain. I find him an extremely effective and thoughtful US Senator.

Read some of the things Franken has said in his recent attacks (more than one) against Apple. His wanting DUI checkpoint apps removed being one. To refresh your memory, the App Store approved an app that told people where DUI checkpoints were located. Franken wrote some big long letter demanding that Apple remove the app. Well, the government mandated that police could not have DUI checkpoints without making prior notice to the public about where and when such checkpoints would be held. The app simply took public information - mandated by the government - and made it an app. So here comes Sen. Effective and Thoughtful and wants the very thing the government mandated removed. What thought do you think he put into this act? And he hasn't been a senator long enough to be effective - only loud mouth. I'm totally against DUI, but I'm also totally against stupid senators who fail to 1) understand the laws they made, and 2) fail to find out the laws they made before opening their mouths. With this regard, do you think Franken even looked to see if Apple did have a privacy policy before he opened his mouth? http://www.apple.com/privacy/ This was Apple's posted privacy policy from June 21, 2010. It took me less than 5 seconds to find it using Google. I stand by my statement - Sen. Al Franken is an idiot.
post #23 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

Let see

1) because singling out the companies with the biggest mindshare without looking for the biggest offenders isnt good governing, only good for grandstanding.

2) because the big picture is that the majority of users being ignored by Franken on this issue, not to mention more important and pressing issues of privacy that arent being addressed.

3) there are downsides if he could have protected everyone but instead only protected those who can get him reelected.

1) Please elaborate on how the two companies that hold far more than 90% of the actively downloaded apps aren't also the "biggest offenders"?

2) The majority of App downloaders users are being directly addressed by Franken. The existence of larger privacy issues is irrelevant--should smaller crimes be ignored if they're not murder?

3) Please explain how he's only targeting those who are getting him re-elected.
post #24 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cinemagic View Post

With this regard, do you think Franken even looked to see if Apple did have a privacy policy before he opened his mouth? http://www.apple.com/privacy/ This was Apple's posted privacy policy from June 21, 2010. It took me less than 5 seconds to find it using Google. I stand by my statement - Sen. Al Franken is an idiot.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but that Privacy Policy does not address the issues Franken has raised. He basically wants an explicit privacy policy on a per app basis, which is not covered by Apple's blanket statement.
post #25 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by redbarchetta View Post

The majority of App downloaders users are being directly addressed by Franken. The existence of larger privacy issues is irrelevant--should smaller crimes be ignored if they're not murder?

For fucks sake your posts are asinine. Your example implies that the same lack of privacy needs a different law to govern it. What Fraken is doing (which I suspect you know, but are choosing to ignore) is that hes letting all murders off except for the two that will make the biggest headlines.
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post #26 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

For fuck’s sake your posts are asinine. Your example implies that the same lack of privacy needs a different law to govern it. What Fraken is doing (which I suspect you know, but are choosing to ignore) is that he’s letting all murders off except for the two that will make the biggest headlines.

So we should let them all go free, according to your argument. Stellar thinking. Really. I'd rather catch the two responsible for 90% of the "crimes" than none at all.

And don't think I didn't catch that you ignored my requests for, you know, facts.
post #27 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

According to the infograph Android Market and App Store account for over 96% of the top 6 app stores active as of April. However, that figure isnt the same as the number of unique users that can access those app stores. Symbian followed by BlackBerry clearly has more customers being able to access apps than another system.

But thats beside the point. It sounds like youre saying privacy rights arent worth protecting for the other stores simply because they have less apps to sell. Regardless of how the percentage breaks down either this is about protecting individual rights or its not.

This is a political play, nothing more, thus the focus on the "big names" instead of the actual issue. The government's creating a checkmark on their "strong on privacy" campaign platform for the next election so that they can harp on their success (and/or the evils of businesses if they block it) so the average customer will continue to remain ignorant of the issue at large.

Privacy is a very important topic, one that companies SHOULD deal with (and I think Apple and Google are looking at how to deal with it.) The problem with a simple "privacy" policy is that it will just become something akin to the EULA, where most users will scroll to the bottom to find the "I agree" button without even reading it. If anything, this is worse because it then gives companies a legal loophole to point out that they DID inform you that they would sell your email address to (insert spammer here) on line 541, section 17 paragraph 7 of the privacy agreement.

I'm not sure if you've checked it recently, but thanks to the increased space allowed by Google for app descriptions, a lot of developers are using that space to explain (rather clearly) exactly why their app is requesting each permission (and the system tells you these permissions before you can install) The system is still far from perfect, and people do tend to simply click through it, but I really like that these developers are taking the initiative and at least trying to explain their app's privacy issues with the best tools they have been given (but like I said, the average customer still skips over it and gives it one star because the messaging app requires the ability to read your text messages >.<)
post #28 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by redbarchetta View Post

So we should let them all go free, according to your argument.

I didn’t say or imply anyone should be let go. In fact, I said all should be accountable to protect all users. I have when on to say there are more pressing privacy issues that are affecting more Americans in a worse way that should be addressed.

Quote:
Stellar thinking. Really. I'd rather catch the two responsible for 90% of the "crimes" than none at all.

So it’s not about protecting the users. Good show¡

Quote:
And don't think I didn't catch that you ignored my requests for, you know, facts.

I only answer questions that are reasonable. Having to write 1000 word response just to address a fallacious query is worth my time.


PS: Maybe someone else can explain it to you.
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post #29 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cinemagic View Post

Sen. Al Franken is still an idiot.

Agreed. The best outcome would be for Senator Franken to resign and just go away. He's a jerk and he puts a face on the term 'bozo.'
post #30 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by DominoXML View Post

I don't understand why more transparency should be a problem. To quote Eric Schmidt:

"If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

Yeah, the irony.

While I agree in its application to this issue -- Apple, Google, their advertising wings and developers, should not be quietly stealing user information (Although, I've yet to see any evidence that Apple is.) or using it for any purposes without being up front about it -- I think the general principle Schimdt espoused is entirely opposed to the principles of a free society.

Freedom is privacy, and privacy is freedom, and they have their own intrinsic value. And, in a free society, one ought to be able to keep things private simply because one wishes to keep them private. Not because, as Schmidt implies, one must be doing something wrong if one doesn't want others to know about it.
post #31 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

So it’s not about protecting the users. Good show¡

What on earth are you talking about? It was a continuation of your analogy; it is about protecting users, much as--to continue the analogy--taking murders off the street protects everyone else.

Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

I only answer questions that are reasonable. Having to write 1000 word response just to address a fallacious query is worth my time.

How is asking you to explain yourself "fallacious"?
post #32 of 49
Does your grocery store have a "discount" card? Does your retailer ask for a phone number when you purchase with cash? I could go on but, both commercial enterprises and governmental entities track our behavior via a variety of venues. In the age of electronics maintaining ones privacy (Whatever that is )is virtually impossible to control. Like many elected officials, Senator Franken's "request" to Apple and Google is more about him than the purported issue.
post #33 of 49
Simple. "No"
post #34 of 49
deleted
post #35 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

Yeah, the irony.

While I agree in its application to this issue -- Apple, Google, their advertising wings and developers, should not be quietly stealing user information (Although, I've yet to see any evidence that Apple is.) or using it for any purposes without being up front about it -- I think the general principle Schimdt espoused is entirely opposed to the principles of a free society.

Freedom is privacy, and privacy is freedom, and they have their own intrinsic value. And, in a free society, one ought to be able to keep things private simply because one wishes to keep them private. Not because, as Schmidt implies, one must be doing something wrong if one doesn't want others to know about it.

I agree.
Eric Schmidt suggests that I should wear a t-shirt imprinted with my address data, my contact data, my hobbies, my friends, my political opinion, my income category and more while walking through the outdoor mall in order to enable vendors to offer me the best wares.

I kindly ask for a possibility to give those information to vendors I trust and only if it's necessary. It's part of my self-determination and yes it's a huge part of my freedom.

"Don't be evil" is no satisfying answer to my question "can I entrust You my data?".
And to the argument that there's nothing to hide: You won't find people who wear t-shirts with "I killed xxx at xxx and you can find me here."
I'm no killer just because I leave this sentence on my t-shirt and I have not to add "I'm no killer really!".
post #36 of 49
It's good to see Franken is still doing comedy...
post #37 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by DominoXML View Post

I don't understand why more transparency should be a problem. To quote Eric Schmidt:

"If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

Why not share the information with the users which data is gathered, shared with 3rd party and for what it is used for?
A trustworthy company has nothing to hide in in this respect.
A privacy policy sounds nice but I fear it will lead to those twenty pages of legal phrasing. I'd prefer a short description of what, for which purpose, shared with whom in the privacy section of an app near by a button with which I can turn it on and off.
This might be a way to turn down a lot of unnecessary paranoia.

I got even a simpler policy. Absolutely no collecting, sharing, copying, distributing, or selling a user's personal information period. If the movie & music industry can use copyright law to stop it, we should have the same right and law to stop this! How about it Franken? Just extend the law and add Personal Info to copyright law.
post #38 of 49
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post #39 of 49
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post #40 of 49
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacRulez View Post

Does anyone here actually provide their real info for those?

Mine says "Lionel Hutz".

I love it when the grocery clerk says, "Have a good day, Mr. Hutz."

They'd never guess your last name is Rulez.
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