Apple Restricts Developers from Selling User Contact Data

June 19, 2018 - 3 minutes read

Apple’s trying to avoid a data abuse probe, similar to what happened with Facebook’s recent data scandal. Facebook’s data abuse scandal happened because the company was too lax in what permissions and information it allowed developers to access.

Consequently, when a Facebook app developer sold the data he’d mined from a quiz he’d built, Facebook came under intense scrutiny by several governments, both federal and overseas. By restricting macOS, iPad, and iOS developers from selling user contact data, Apple is taking a step in the right direction to avoid data issues in the future. But is it enough?

Why Do They Need That Info, Anyways?

Apple recently updated its App Store Review Guidelines to include some things that developers cannot use or sell. The Silicon Valley company, located right outside of San Francisco, stated that developers must not create databases of personal information using contacts, nor can the developer sell these databases to third parties. Developers found to be abusing this access to info will face a punishment of being banned from the App Store.

The company also included “Photos and other APIs” in that list. Specifically, the rules now say, “Do not use information from Contacts, Photos, or other APIs that access user data to build a contact database for your own use or for sale/distribution to third parties, and don’t collect information about which other apps are installed on a user’s device for the purposes of analytics or advertising/marketing.”

Protecting the Consumer

Apple’s been quiet about this change to their policy, but it’s just one step among several others to combat potential data abuse at the expense of consumers. A few weeks ago, the company stopped apps from sharing user location without explicitly asking for consent, probably to get ahead of the EU’s new GDPR regulations.

For reasons other than enhancing the consumer’s experience, improving hardware or software, or serving ads that comply with Apple’s license agreement, programmers will not be allowed to store contact information and photos for personal or professional gains.

A More Secure Future?

This isn’t the last adjustment the company is making, either. It will roll out security and privacy enhancements in iOS 12 and macOS Mojave, like end-to-end encryption for group FaceTime video calls, stronger password generators, and anti-tracking features for Safari.

By giving users more power, Apple hopes to create a different perception of itself while it’s surrounded by so much data abuse from Facebook and Google. Will it work? Will consumers trust the company more than its competitors? How will it enforce these new rules? And what long-lasting effects will developers face if found guilty of data abuse, if any?

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