Apple does not want a big controversy like Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal to hit its company, so it has imposed preventive measures that protect user data. 

The Cupertino giant updated its App Store guidelines last week to limit developers’ access to user information. One of the changes disallows app developers from accessing iPhone owners’ friends and other contacts, Bloomberg has learned. 

By disabling access to users’ contacts, Apple is addressing the loophole that previously enabled app makers to obtain and share data without consent from users. The issue has been going on for years, but Apple is addressing it now following the huge privacy scandal that hit Mark Zuckerberg’s company earlier this year. 

App developers previously had access to phone contacts, allowing them to use such data for marketing purposes. At times, they shared or sold personal contact information to other companies even without informing the owners of such accounts. The tactic is employed by developers to make money and ensure growth.

Contact lists saved on iPhones typically contain phone numbers, email addresses and even profile photos of users’ family, friends and colleagues. Therefore, developers were able to take advantage of important information that should have remained private in the first place.

Tim Cook’s company made it clear at the annual Worldwide Developers Conference earlier this month that it was administering new controls to limit tracking of web browsing activities of users. At the time, Apple did not mention the new guidelines. 

However, it is now clear that Apple wants to do away with sharing and selling data obtained from users of its devices. The updated guidelines forbid third parties from doing so. Third-party apps are also not allowed to get contact list information and say that they will use it for a specific purpose, but then use it for something else. This will only be allowed if users have given consent. 

Last week, Apple banned iOS apps from making contact with people using information collected through users’ contacts or photos unless there’s consent from users. Developers were also asked to show users what the message it will send to the recipients would look like before sending it. 

U.S. Senator Mark Warner has since lauded Apple for its App Store guidelines changes. Warner said the iPhone X maker “should be applauded — for this, and for other user-empowering moves Apple has made that will give consumers better control over how their data is used.”

Apple Apple is not allowing developers to have access to app users’ contacts from now on. Photo: Reuters/David Gray