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US senator calls for FTC investigation of Apple, Google over privacy loopholes

post #1 of 53
Thread Starter 
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer has issued a call for the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Apple and Google over potential privacy issues arising from loopholes in their respective mobile operating systems.

Sen. Schumer (D-NY) has raised concerns over iOS and Android because of a recent report from The New York Times outing a loophole where an app could upload users' photos when authorized to access location data, Reuters reported on Sunday. He also took issue with last month's discovery that some applications have been uploading user's address books to their own servers without permission.

"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," the senator said in a letter to the FTC.

"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," he added.

Last month's report by the Times made use of a test app to demonstrate that an application could transmit geo-tagged photos to a remote server if allowed to access location information on the device.


Test app PhotoSpy's location authorization pop-up. Source| The New York Times


Social networking app "Path" came under fire last month when a developer discovered that the software was uploading contacts without asking for permission. The discovery brought to light the fact that a number of other popular apps also engaged in the practice. The "Path" team quickly responded with an apology and removed the offending feature.

For its part, Apple spoke up that unauthorized contact data transmission was in violation of its guidelines and pledged to require user approval in a future software release.

Apple faced lawmaker and regulator scrutiny last year over a similar issue with user location data. The company was part of an FTC forum last May as a result of a controversy over database files uncovered within iOS and Android that appeared to track user's locations. Apple clarified that the file was actually a crowd-sourced database of Wi-Fi networks used to improve location accuracy.


Locations from iOS database plotted. | Source: O'Reilly Radar


The U.S. Senate also called Apple and Google to a series of its own hearings last year over the location issue. Apple insisted at the hearings that it has no plans to ever track users' locations.

[ View article on AppleInsider ]
post #2 of 53
Schumer is deep into suckling the teat of Wall Street and will say and do whatever keeps him in office. He knows nothing of technology and is parroting his telecom masters. Political parties mean nothing to those lip-locked to the 1%.
post #3 of 53
Sorry but last I checked google does not have any privacy loopholes. Instead you are met with this upon installation of a market place app:




If the app attempts to access a permission that it does not state the app will not function correctly.
post #4 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tonkin View Post

Schumer is deep into suckling the teat of Wall Street and will say and do whatever keeps him in office. He knows nothing of technology and is parroting his telecom masters. Political parties mean nothing to those lip-locked to the 1%.

You've just described everyone in office.

"Like I said before, share price will dip into the $400."  - 11/21/12 by Galbi

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"Like I said before, share price will dip into the $400."  - 11/21/12 by Galbi

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post #5 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

"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," he added.

He's right. I wonder what the result of the inquiry will be.
post #6 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tonkin View Post

Schumer is deep into suckling the teat of Wall Street and will say and do whatever keeps him in office. He knows nothing of technology and is parroting his telecom masters. Political parties mean nothing to those lip-locked to the 1%.

If he is truly a rumpswab for big business, then Apple has nothing to worry about.
post #7 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tonkin View Post

Schumer is deep into suckling the teat of Wall Street and will say and do whatever keeps him in office. He knows nothing of technology and is parroting his telecom masters. Political parties mean nothing to those lip-locked to the 1%.

Being crass and crude does not make you smart or right. It simply makes you crass, crude and repugnant.
post #8 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by I am a Zither Zather Zuzz View Post

He's right. I wonder what the result of the inquiry will be.

Even before the inquiry, some issues are rather clear. Apple (and Google) is relying on a code of honor amongst developers to treat user data as sacred. It's like asking software purchasers to read the license agreement and truly agree before clicking Yes, and expecting them to remember and honor what they have agreed to.

Having said that, some issues are also overblown.
post #9 of 53
In other words, I don't have time to solve employment, jobs, the debt, campaign financing, or corruption... but I do have time to complain about a problem that Apple's already committed to fixing.

And reap the resulting press accounts, of course.
post #10 of 53
Nothing like trying to legislate perfection.
post #11 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by ahmlco View Post

In other words, I don't have time to solve employment, jobs, the debt, campaign financing, or corruption... but I do have time to complain about a problem that Apple's already committed to fixing.

And reap the resulting press accounts, of course.

That's about right. Schumer's one of the biggest attention whores in the Senate. He holds an amazing number of press conferences on a regular basis. He won't be getting my vote again. I miss the days when Daniel Patrick Moynihan was senior senator of this great state.
post #12 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple v. Samsung View Post

Sorry but last I checked google does not have any privacy loopholes. Instead you are met with this upon installation of a market place app:




If the app attempts to access a permission that it does not state the app will not function correctly.

Surely this must be sarcasm on your part. Take a look at Accounts and you'll see it gives the app the authorization to do anything on your system. Doesn't Google address book try to mimic your system's address book? Full Internet access? etc. etc.

The average user doesn't have a clue how deep this dialog box's rabbit hole goes!
post #13 of 53
Interesting story published on a website that has no less than 12 tracking cookies.
post #14 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tonkin View Post

Schumer is deep into suckling the teat of Wall Street and will say and do whatever keeps him in office. He knows nothing of technology and is parroting his telecom masters. Political parties mean nothing to those lip-locked to the 1%.

I hope you don't feel this way about me!
post #15 of 53
Software is just complex and these loopholes sometimes get in there. I don't think it's malicious or requires an investigation. Senators shouldn't make a big deal out of things like this on the Boy Who Cried Wolf principle.
post #16 of 53
+1 Couldn't have said it better
post #17 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by ahmlco View Post

In other words, I don't have time to solve employment, jobs, the debt, campaign financing, or corruption... but I do have time to complain about a problem that Apple's already committed to fixing.

And reap the resulting press accounts, of course.

I couldn't have said it better. +1
post #18 of 53
I'm concerned about the great damage the good senator has inflicted upon his knees, from jumping aboard every passing bandwagon. What a schmuck.
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Hey, this Kool-Aid is delicious, what do you put in it?!
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post #19 of 53
EL OH EL

what the fuck man.

This is absolutely ridiculous...these "issues" require a software update and nothing more...to push an investigation is to try and make a name for yourself with bullshit causes.

Seems to be one bullshit cause a month involving either Apple or Google.
post #20 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by ljocampo View Post

Surely this must be sarcasm on your part. Take a look at Accounts and you'll see it gives the app the authorization to do anything on your system. Doesn't Google address book try to mimic your system's address book? Full Internet access? etc. etc.

The average user doesn't have a clue how deep this dialog box's rabbit hole goes!

Actually Android doesn't even have a dialog that allows an app to grab your photos, it just does it because it can.

Read it and learn:
http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/0...ndroid-photos/

and

http://gigaom.com/mobile/why-google-...image-problem/

Google has no good explanation for why Android apps can grab photos and net even ask first.
"That (the) world is moving so quickly that iOS is already amongst the older mobile operating systems in active development today." — The Verge
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"That (the) world is moving so quickly that iOS is already amongst the older mobile operating systems in active development today." — The Verge
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post #21 of 53
This is the beginning of a Government Law Suit. Some day and it's coming the Government will see Apple the same way they saw Microsloft and call for an anti trust law suit. You watch. This is just the beginning.
An Apple man since 1977
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An Apple man since 1977
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post #22 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Obama View Post

I hope you don't feel this way about me!

I dont feel that way about you. I hate how the GOP is pretending to act like you are a terrible president and blame all of George Bush Jr and his behavior on you. I know that the GOP is racially motivated. How sad. To take the First African American President and try to destroy him and pretend its not racial. That is what makes me so fed up with them. They are really unreasonable.
An Apple man since 1977
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An Apple man since 1977
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post #23 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Obama View Post

I hope you don't feel this way about me!

Quote:
Originally Posted by tylerk36 View Post

I dont feel that way about you. I hate how the GOP is pretending to act like you are a terrible president and blame all of George Bush Jr and his behavior on you. I know that the GOP is racially motivated. How sad. To take the First African American President and try to destroy him and pretend its not racial. That is what makes me so fed up with them. They are really unreasonable.

How sad.
post #24 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Macky the Macky View Post

Actually Android doesn't even have a dialog that allows an app to grab your photos, it just does it because it can.

Read it and learn:
http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/0...ndroid-photos/

and

http://gigaom.com/mobile/why-google-...image-problem/

Google has no good explanation for why Android apps can grab photos and net even ask first.

They actually do have an explanation...and whether or not it's suitable is up to you...Just like all MacOSX and Windows apps currently have access to the file system upon install so do Android apps...the issue arises from the fact that Android treats itself as a computer at the end of the day whereas iOS devices recognize they are mobile devices and behave under a different set of rules...

I'm not quite sure but I think this is why in Android you can send a photo directly from the gallery into any app capable of supporting it/sharing it easily whereas in iOS IIRC you need to go into each separate app to share an image.

Either way back on topic, both systems will issue patches soon to amend these issues/perceived issues...and I do hope that for Android's sake it doesn't affect the sharability factor.

either way, these issues are overblown...as always.
post #25 of 53
Rather than getting angry at the messenger, iOS users should be expressing surprise and disappointment that their privacy details are so lightly protected when using App Store applications.

Apple has repeatedly extolled the safety of it's curated market where user's are supposedly protected from having the data on their phone or tablet stolen unlike the Wild West of their Android counterparts. Even this article at AI isn't going to tell you the extent to which any almost data on your phone ranging from your doctor appointments to the names and addresses of your children can be sent off to a private server without your knowledge much less your approval.

Most iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch users would not know this and the AI article wasn't going to tell you (from 9to5Mac):

"...the legislative body is not going to like what it hears. The problem is that iOS apps not only have access to a user’s contacts database (including addresses and notes), but apps also have full and unencumbered access to everything in the iOS app sandbox, such as pictures, music, movies, calendars, and a host of other data. Any of this content is literally open for developers to freely transmit to their own servers while apps are open. (note that pictures with geotags will pop up a Location dialog which can be averted in code with some well known tricks)"

Even Android Market users aren't exposed like this. Is their list of granted permissions a perfect solution? Plainly not, but at least an Android app user has some warnings/info before actually installing and using an app. If they don't bother to take the time to read then part of the blame is on the user. It still has to be done better tho. On the other hand Apple, in it's attempts to make the AppStore as user-friendly on the surface as possible, has avoided any similar notifications until an issue like this hits the press. Then it becomes a supposed non-issue to be "fixed with a future update".

With both Apple and Google agreeing with the State of California to be more proactive in letting users know exactly what they've agreed to share with app marketers, another investigation by a US senator is more PR than anything IMO. Apple was already pushed to make changes, moving towards the Android permissions-based model, albeit in piecemeal fashion.

In essence tho, if you have an issue with Android and the idea that data you might consider private is being stolen (real or imagined) when you download apps, how could you possibly not be even more concerned to find that an Apple you complete trust really has little idea just what an app is doing, and shows little concern on finding out unless it makes the news. What's protecting your data? A few lines in a developer agreement telling app marketers they're not allowed to do what they're obviously doing. Was Facebook or Gowalla pulled for violating the agreement? They also take contact info without telling you, as do games like Cut the Rope and Angry Birds.
http://arstechnica.com/apple/news/20...n-security.ars
Each of us has his own idea on privacy and what we're willing to share to get value in return. . . but that should be our decision.

So this isn't just about a few pictures. Every appointment, important date, relative's address and phone, every note you've added on every friend or business associate, misc. assorted data you consider private, even location info with an easy developer workaround, can be collected and off-loaded to remote servers with absolutely no implied permission from you when you use an app on your iPhone. If you've been advised and choose to use an app anyway then at least part of the responsibility is yours. Keeping you from having any idea what an app is doing in the background while leading users to believe they have nothing to be concerned about should be troubling.

Of course I still expect the messenger to be shot.
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melior diabolus quem scies
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post #26 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by I am a Zither Zather Zuzz View Post

He's right. I wonder what the result of the inquiry will be.

I don't know, but what they will do is ask the civil servants who actually do understand a thing or two, and they will get up some witnesses for a hearing.

I doubt this will produce anything but a wag of the finger at Apple and Google.

But hey, this is Congress's job, to oversee things like this. And something people are forgetting is that Senators only say things like this when constituents (a few of them) are concerned.
post #27 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by tylerk36 View Post

This is the beginning of a Government Law Suit. Some day and it's coming the Government will see Apple the same way they saw Microsloft and call for an anti trust law suit. You watch. This is just the beginning.

With maybe 10% of the US computer market, 25% of the smartphone market (the profitable 25%), they can't be found to be a monopoly. Maybe "unfair business practices." Like, they do everything so well -- okay, not Mobile Me -- that it's not fair!!
post #28 of 53
I am a New Yorker and if this man has a opponent that isn't a Republican or Conservative I'm going to have to vote for them instead.
post #29 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by kent909 View Post

Interesting story published on a website that has no less than 12 tracking cookies.

I have to agree with you, why does AI feel the need to have 12 ad networks attached to their pages? With all this recent storm over privacy, you'd think AI would take action before someone noticed. \
post #30 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Swift View Post

I don't know, but what they will do is ask the civil servants who actually do understand a thing or two, and they will get up some witnesses for a hearing.

I doubt this will produce anything but a wag of the finger at Apple and Google.

But hey, this is Congress's job, to oversee things like this. And something people are forgetting is that Senators only say things like this when constituents (a few of them) are concerned.

I want to like Chuck, but at a time when job creation should be at the top of the agenda we have Senators arguing over loop holes in code that Apple will fix with an update. I feel like sometimes this privacy stuff is more of a witch hunt for congress than anything else. I understand privacy is important but job creation is far and away more important. It makes no sense to waste the precious resources time and money on this when it's pretty obvious that these companies are quick to resolve these privacy issues once they find out about them.
post #31 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Elijahg View Post

I have to agree with you, why does AI feel the need to have 12 ad networks attached to their pages? With all this recent storm over privacy, you'd think AI would take action before someone noticed. \

Please, this site doesn't pay for itself. People have to be able to stay in business. Ads help them to do that.
post #32 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by AdonisSMU View Post

Please, this site doesn't pay for itself. People have to be able to stay in business. Ads help them to do that.

But 12? MacRumors has three, even Ars Technica has half what this site has, and they get plenty more visitors for sure. Just seems AI is being a tad hypocritical.
post #33 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by tylerk36 View Post

I dont feel that way about you. I hate how the GOP is pretending to act like you are a terrible president and blame all of George Bush Jr and his behavior on you. I know that the GOP is racially motivated. How sad. To take the First African American President and try to destroy him and pretend its not racial. That is what makes me so fed up with them. They are really unreasonable.

Shame on you for playing the race card, apropos nothing. The two parties have been at each other's throats since their creation. Republicans aren't treating Obama any worse than they treated Bill, and no worse than they'd have treated Hillary, and certainly no worse than Republicans treated Bush. But because Obama isn't white, he should be spared the process? Please stop that. Obama has already enjoyed the shelter of blaming the man before longer than any president I've seen. And I've seen Bush Jr, Bill, Bush Sr, Reagan, Carter, Ford *and* Nixon. (And almost Al Haig. Whatever did happen to that man?) Sometimes you've just gotta put on your big boy pants and cope.
post #34 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Elijahg View Post

I have to agree with you, why does AI feel the need to have 12 ad networks attached to their pages? With all this recent storm over privacy, you'd think AI would take action before someone noticed. \

Nobody has failed to notice if they have been paying attention.

They have 12 ad networks because that way, they can sell you (the product) to 12 paying customers.
post #35 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by AdonisSMU View Post

I want to like Chuck, but at a time when job creation should be at the top of the agenda we have Senators arguing over loop holes in code that Apple will fix with an update. I feel like sometimes this privacy stuff is more of a witch hunt for congress than anything else. I understand privacy is important but job creation is far and away more important. It makes no sense to waste the precious resources time and money on this when it's pretty obvious that these companies are quick to resolve these privacy issues once they find out about them.

You seem to assume that the Senate can only do one thing at a time, or maybe, that it would be best if they only did one thing at a time.

Guess what? They are working on many different things, all at once.
post #36 of 53
If there is a camera or microphone around, there you will see Chuck taking advantage of the moment....
post #37 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gatorguy View Post

Rather than getting angry at the messenger, iOS users should be expressing surprise and disappointment that their privacy details are so lightly protected when using App Store applications. ...

What a bunch of nonsensical propaganda. Oh, yes, Android users' privacy is so much better protected.
post #38 of 53
It's hard to tell if the thread has been overrun by trolls or fools.

Who the fuck cares what his motives are if it results in something positive. What the hell are your motives for attacking anyone who lifts a finger in defense of privacy?
post #39 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by I am a Zither Zather Zuzz View Post

You seem to assume that the Senate can only do one thing at a time, or maybe, that it would be best if they only did one thing at a time.

Guess what? They are working on many different things, all at once.

You're absolutely right. They're working on their golf games, their stock portfolios, they're working on another 10AM martini...

All the nonsense in this thread is missing one major point - the US government has NO PLACE trying to interfere in this. No place suggesting they should be legislating this. No place spending tax dollars on this. Regardless of how many things they are or are not doing, this should not be one of them. Period.

And let's read this again: They're investigating Apple & Google because THIRD PARTY software is doing something it shouldn't be. If anything, it's the application developers that need to be investigated for violations of privacy law. It's not Apple, not Google, not Samsung, Nokia or any other hardware (and/or mobile OS) vendor that's doing this (except in the cases where they are - and then they should be taken to task).

This is a bad politician making a lazy attack on high profile targets for press coverage. He's saying: "I won't do the hard work in tracking down and investigating all the software developers that are actually doing the bad deeds, I'll just try to publicly shame a few major companies into doing my jobs for me - but I'll take the credit, no worries there."
post #40 of 53
Quote:
Originally Posted by anonymouse View Post

Who the fuck cares what his motives are if it results in something positive.

That's about as far from the right kind of question as it could possibly be.

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

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Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

Reply
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