Apple Limits App Developers’ Data-Sharing Abilities


Last week, Apple changed its App Store rules to limit how developers use information about iPhone owners’ contacts. According to Bloomberg, the change closes a loophole that allowed app developers to store and share data without everyone’s consent.

In the past, developers would ask users for access to their phone contacts, then use that info for marketing, as well as sometimes share or sell the information without permission from the other people involved.

Sharing and selling that database with third parties is now prohibited, and an app can’t gain access to a user’s contact list for one reason and then use it for something else unless the developer gets consent again. If a developer gets caught breaking the rules, they may be banned.

Apple is making the change after Facebook was hit with the Cambridge Analytica scandal last year. Apple CEO Tim Cook was a vocal critic of the social media giant after it was revealed that up to 87 million of its users may have had their data shared with the controversial research firm.

“We reject the notion that getting the most out of technology means trading away your right to privacy, so we choose a different path: collecting as little of your data as possible, and being thoughtful and respectful when it’s in our care. Because we know it belongs to you,” Cook said during a commencement speech at Duke University in May.

Balancing user privacy with the needs of developers has helped the company build a profitable app ecosystem. Earlier this month, Cook revealed that developers have earned $100 billion through the Apple App Store. He also announced that there are 500 million weekly visitors to the App Store. The company typically takes 30 percent of app revenue and runs search ads in its App Store.

“They have a huge ecosystem making money through the developer channels and these apps, and until the developers get better on privacy, Apple is complicit,” said Domingo Guerra, president of Appthority, which advises governments and companies on mobile phone security. “When someone shares your info as part of their address book, you have no say in it, and you have no knowledge of it.”