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Senator demands FTC iPhone, Android photo privacy probe

Smartphone sniffer apps snoop

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The Federal Trade Commission has been urged by a US senator to probe allegations that apps installed on Apple and Google Android mobile handsets slurp users' private photos and contacts without first gaining the consent of the customer.

Reuters reported yesterday that Democrat Charles Schumer had been in touch with the FTC after reading a New York Times report that showed how iPhone apps could gain access to an individual's private photo collection and consequently post them online.

And it turns out Google's Android system can be similarly manipulated.

In a letter to the commission, the lawmaker wrote that he was concerned about such apps having the ability – along with photo-slurping capability – to lift entire address books from devices including Apple's iPad and then copy them over to separate servers.

"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," Schumer said in his missive to the FTC, according to Reuters.

He went on to claim that Apple and Google Android's terms of service had been violated by such usage by apps that slurp personal data from the devices without gaining permission from the punter.

Schumer added that it was unclear "whether or how those terms of service are being enforced and monitored" by Cupertino and Mountain View.

The senator called on smartphone vendors "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 and Google couldn't immediately be reached for comment at time of writing. ®

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