Amid concerns that some Android and iOS apps are collecting personal information from devices and passing it to third parties, Google and Apple have agreed to meet with U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, the New York Times reported.
In a letter to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the New York Democrat expressed his concerns that privacy rights may be infringed as contact names, telephone numbers, and email addresses are acquired from devices without user permission. Schumer also urged the FTC to investigate Google and Apple in the letter.
"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," Reuters quoted Schumer as saying in the letter. "[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."
Schumer noted that it was unclear whether the use of personal information in this way violates the terms of service of the Apple and Android platforms.
"It is not clear whether or how those terms of service are being enforced and monitored," he added. Schumer's office contacted both companies yesterday and reported they were "friendly and open to the idea" of preventing apps from having access to private info.
Schumer is "optimistic" they can fix this issue, but also said he's willing to look at a "legislative approach" beyond the FTC investigation.
In response to the claims of unauthorized photo sharing, Google has said that it is re-evaluating its policies with regards to application permissions.
"As phones and tablets have evolved to rely more on built-in, non-removable memory, we're taking another look at this and considering adding a permission for apps to access images," a Google spokesperson said in a statement. "We've always had policies in place to remove any apps on Android Market that improperly access your data."
The firm pointed out that its recently announced Bouncer service also scans the Android Market in an attempt to detect and remove malicious apps.
The request to the FTC comes as research from MWR InfoSecurity found that Android applications allow text messages, emails, photos, contacts and calendar information to be passed directly to advertising firms. The research was commissioned by Channel 4, although no details about which applications or how many pass on information have been disclosed at this time.