The Apple iPhone 4S is stealing your contact information and you don't even know it. Worse, there could be dozens of iPhone apps doing the same thing. Now Congress wants answers.
IPhone apps like Path can upload your contact lists, e-mail and phone numbers included, without your permission and there's no telling what they are going to do with the information. On Feb. 15, Reps. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) sent a letter to Apple asking for details about why consumers where not asked for permission to download their address books' info.
It appears many iOS app developers consider downloading users' contact info an acceptable practice. App developer Dustin Curtis did a quick unofficial inquiry into the matter and found 31 of 15 developers asked confirming that they were doing it. Congress has now given Apple until the end of February to answer critical questions about people's digital privacy, a popular topic these days with Facebook and Google both being raked over the coals for disregarding privacy rules. However, this latest kerfuffle is much different from the Carrier IQ scandal Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., waded into in early January. That's because it would be easy for Apple to stop the practice, while the Carrier IQ problem was more widespread.
The backlash, as in the Carrier IQ fiasco, has been swift, and some companies have now said they will at least ask permission in the future. Furthermore, Apple should, and likely will, fix this problem, in no small part because that is what Steve Jobs would have wanted. He was firmly on the side of privacy, to the point of advocating for more transparency when it came to permission requests for apps.
Tim Cook, Apple's new CEO, appears to be smart enough to know better in this situation. It just might take a little time for Apple to actually change its policy.
Tell us in the comments if you are concerned about privacy from any iOS apps you've used.