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Taiwan: Top tech giants must stop playing fast and loose with privacy

12 smartphone makers (cough, cough, Apple, Xiaomi, etc) probed by watchdog

A Taiwanese watchdog claims 12 of the world's largest makers of cellphones have broken laws safeguarding privacy.

The state's National Communications Commission, which has probed several tech giants, wouldn't name all of the accused – but officials at the regulator mentioned Apple, Xiaomi, Samsung, Sony and HTC, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The alleged violations are believed to involve collecting and storing personal information without fully notifying people under Taiwanese law. The phone makers may also have harvested more data than needed.

"The key issue is that companies have to tell consumers if they are collecting their personal data or transferring it elsewhere," commission spokesman Yu Hsiao-cheng said on Friday.

The smartphone slingers will be given a grace period to sort themselves out before any fines or sales bans are considered, we're told. The commission has said it will publish a full report on its investigation into the tech giants – including the names of the companies – at a later date.

The probe comes as privacy is increasingly a concern, particularly in neighboring China where American businesses, such as Apple, have been scrutinized over their handling of personal information.

Such concerns are not limited to Asia. Recently, authorities in the US peered into Apple's HealthKit, while Android kit makers were also probed for improper safeguarding of user data.

And, of course, no conversation of government concerns over handset privacy would be complete without noting that the governments themselves may be the biggest culprits in slurping user information from smartphones. ®

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