Congress not happy with Apple’s response on privacy concerns

appleApple may find itself in front of a Congressional committee trying to back up claims that it’s protecting the privacy of its users.

As concerns have mounted over the information collected by mobile apps, Apple has been forced to defend its policies to lawmakers. Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook last month asking for clarification on the company’s privacy policies concerning the data that apps can collect.

Apple replied with a five-page letter dated March 2 in which it tried to explain the vetting process that apps go through before being allowed in the App Store. Apple also insisted a couple of times that it has an “unwavering commitment to giving our customers clear and transparent notice, choice, and control over their personal information.”

But Apple‘s response didn’t satisfy the lawmakers.

In a follow-up letter to Cook dated yesterday, Waxman and Butterfield said that “the March 2 reply we received from Apple does not answer a number of the questions we raised about the company’s efforts to protect the privacy and security of its mobile device users.” The congressmen were also concerned about recent revelations that certain apps could access a mobile user’s photographs, a “loophole” uncovered by the New York Times late last month.

Instead of trading more back-and-forth letters, Waxman and Butterfield now want an Apple representative to appear in person before the Energy and Commerce Committee to “help us understand these issues.”

Apple has already been forced to respond to one privacy issue.

An iPhone app named Path was recently found to be grabbing a user’s contact information without permission. Other mobile apps, including Foursquare and Twitter, were also discovered doing the same thing.

In response, Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr sent a statement to CNET at the time saying that “apps that collect or transmit a user’s contact data without their prior permission are in violation of our guidelines.” The company has promised a future release to iOS that would “require user approval” before such information can be captured.

The recently-released iOS 5.1 included a number of bug fixes and security updates but didn’t seem to address the contact data flaw.

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