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Lawmakers believe privacy laws should be applied to third-party developers, wireless carriers and mobile handset makers

Lawmakers investigated the collection, use, and storage of consumer location data from four U.S. wireless carriers, and determined that mobile privacy safeguards should also be applied to third-party app developers 

Mobile privacy has become a serious issue for some carriers that choose to use methods of tracking in order to target ads to consumers. For instance, Apple used a new feature on iOS 4 to capture location data on its a users through their iPhone or iPad. What's more is that Apple stored this information in a local file, and when a user buys a new iPhone or iPad, this file is transferred to the new device.  

In addition, other reports have found that Android-based phones are mining personal data as well, but are not storing it in a file. 

With security problems like this at hand, lawmakers have requested information from Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc., T-Mobile and Sprint Nextel Corp. regarding their privacy practices, including the collection, use and storage of user location data.

Representatives Edward Markey and Joe Barton, co-chairs of the House Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, received letters from all four carriers on Thursday. After reviewing these letters, Markey and Barton agreed that third-party developers should also have to abide by mobile privacy safeguards.

"Third-party developers can access the location of customers at any time they want," said Barton. "They shouldn't have free reign over your location data and personally identifiable information."

Markey noted that user privacy protection must be a priority for wireless carriers, application developers and mobile handset makers.  

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller will hold a hearing on consumer privacy on May 10, where Google and Apple will be in attendance. While many hope that this sort of legislative attention will change privacy laws and make third-party developers abide by them, the outcome is uncertain at this point. 

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annoying app behavior rant time
By invidious on 4/29/2011 11:18:24 AM , Rating: 5
Of particular concern to me is that when i download an App to my Android tablet it tells me what permissions the App wants. And the only option I have is agree or don't install the App.

I don't understand why I can just deny a specific permission that I don't want the App to have, and if the App doesnt work fully, thats my problem. Just because an app has functionality to invite my friends from my contacts list doesn't mean I want to let it access that personal data.

Also there isn't always an App setting to turn on or off backround opperation. Many Apps turn themselves on for seemingly no reason. So they arent just accessing the excessive permissions when I am using the app, they are doing it all the time. The OS should provide override control so app are only accessing the permission that I want to let them have at the time periods when I want to let them have it. Just because I want my navigation app to be able to find my location when I am using it doesnt mean I want it to know where I am at all times.

Ultimately I always have the choice to not use the apps. But it seems that so many apps fall into the above categories that if I stopped using those apps I might as well stop using the device.

Well thats my rant, feel free to comiserate.

RE: annoying app behavior rant time
By impulsegto on 4/29/2011 12:10:53 PM , Rating: 2
I comiserate with you. I can't tell you the frustration when I download an app that wants rights to get phone call information (or such) and yet the application has absolutely no need for it.

I do know having done some development of apps for Android, using their so-so development environment, that there are sometimes work arounds that require oddball permissions. But nonetheless, IMO, if a developer need a permission they should specify why, if its not obvious.

Bottomline though, Android needs to give the users the ability to turn off on a system level permissions and on an app level too.

My other pet-peeve, especially since I have a Nexus One with 196mb of app space, erg, is that ALL developers should turn on the flag (its a flag in a configuration file for goodness sake Facebook app... come on Zuckerberg, pull your head out) that allows the application to be moved to the SD card. Heck even Google doesn't have this for all their apps, like say their Books app, but they have it for Google Earth and Sky Map.

RE: annoying app behavior rant time
By SpinCircle on 4/29/2011 12:15:23 PM , Rating: 2
One of the android dev's that I follow on twitter actually has a beta version of an app that will allow you to deny certain permissions on a per app level... however, I believe that it requires root... I can't remember for sure if it does though since I'm rooted and don't have an unrooted phone in the house (my wife's phone is rooted as well). But, I agree that it would be nice if the OS had this kind of option built into it.

By Solandri on 4/29/2011 8:17:07 PM , Rating: 2
I too would like some way to control what an app can do at the OS level. However, a large portion of the apps in the Android market operate under an advertising model. The app is free, but in exchange it gets to show you ads while you're using it. The ads are what pays the developers.

Allowing the user to shut off an app's network access at will could seriously upset that business model. For that reason, I doubt you'll see Google adding this sort of feature to the Android OS. They'll probably look the other way if someone makes an app to do it (like ad blockers for web browsers), especially if it requires root. But if it becomes too commonplace and starts to impact app developers' revenue, I would expect them to crack down on it.

(OTOH, I don't see any problem with stuff like restricting an app's access to your private data. There's no reason for a dictionary app to need access to your contact list and phone state.)

By petschska on 4/29/2011 1:51:16 PM , Rating: 1
For all the hate that RIM gets, security is one area where they have taken attention to detail. The feature you want is built into the BlackBerry system.

I use both a BlackBerry and an Android, but until Android/iOS make administrative security and specific app security more comprehensive, they will never be adopted by large corporations as their standard.

"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad

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