Apple Modifying iPhone to Better Protect Users’ Data from Third-Party Apps

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Several days ago, news came out that some iPhone apps are sending to their developers personal information about their users without permission. Apple announced today that it is going to update the iOS to make this impossible.

Apple iPhone SpyingAs it stands now, apps don’t need their user’s consent to access the contents of their on-device address book. And the software can do anything it wants with that information — including sending it to their developer, who can create a giant database of contact information of everyone their customers know. This was reportedly happening with a social-networking app called Path, but apparently it’s not the only one.

According to Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr, “Apps that collect or transmit a user’s contact data without their prior permission are in violation of our guidelines.” But there was nothing in the iOS that actually prevented them from doing so.

That’s going to change soon. Neumayr told AllThingsD, “As we have done with location services, any app wishing to access contact data will require explicit user approval.” Presumably, this will work just like location services do — a pop-up window asks the user if they will allow the software to access their current location whenever necessary.

The Apple spokesperson did not explicitly state when this change would be made to the iPhone’s operating system, other than to say it will be “in a future software release.” This company is widely expected to be planning to introduce iOS 5.1 in the middle of next month, at about the same time the iPad 3 hits store shelves. This new policy could go into effect at that time.

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