Apple agrees to disclose app privacy permissions before download or purchase

California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris announced today that Apple has agreed to better protect iOS users' privacy by disclosing the permissions an App Store app will require before a user downloads or purchases an app.

"Your personal privacy should not be the cost of using mobile apps, but all too often it is," said Attorney General Harris. "This agreement strengthens the privacy protections of California consumers and of millions of people around the globe who use mobile apps," Attorney General Harris continued. "By ensuring that mobile apps have privacy policies, we create more transparency and give mobile users more informed control over who accesses their personal information and how it is used."

The way apps treat our personal, private data has been in and out of the news for years, but recently gained attention again following the discovery that some iOS apps were uploading Contacts data to their servers without explicit user consent. Though against Apple policy, the use of private data like Contacts or Calendars isn't prevented by iOS the way Twitter accounts, location, and push notifications are.

Apple may decide to take a page from Google's Android Market, and show a list of permissions an app will require in a tab on the App Store.

That's a huge win for users concerned about their privacy and wishing greater transparency from developers and platform owners both. However, it doesn't address the scalability or usability issues that remain within iOS -- longer permission lists require better interfaces or they risk users getting annoyed or bored and no paying attention to them.

Personal responsibility is an absolute must, and if we tap through or scroll through without reading, we abdicate our right to complain later, but making permissions easier to navigate and update goes a long way towards making life easier for users and mitigating the overload "too much information" sometimes causes.

We had some ideas about what we'd like to see in an iOS 6 permissions panel, but no matter what Apple implements, it's important this issue has gotten the attention it has.

Along with Apple, Amazon, Google, HP, Microsoft, and BlackBerry maker RIM have also

Source: State of California via The Next Web

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Great news. Users who want to know should be able to see before they install. I'm sure Apple will figure out a way to present the info in an unobtrusive way so those who don't care aren't bothered by it.
  • Once Apple implements this they will sue Google claiming this was copied from IOS.
  • Thought the same thing :)
  • What I wouldnt give to have a detbae with you about this. You just say so many things that arrive from nowhere that Im pretty positive Id have a fair shot. Your blog is good visually, I mean people wont be bored. But others who can see past the videos and the layout wont be so impressed together with your generic understanding of this subject.
  • This is kind of BS because "disclosure prior to download/install" and actually being able to control that access after the install via security on the device are two completely different things. If disclosure is all that's needed right now, this doesn't push Apple enough to make those security changes to the OS for much more robust security permission control. Am I the only one who sees this? WTF?!
  • I agree. We should be able to grant access or denie just like location and push notification. I don't like anyone having my contacts list that I don't approve.
  • The real question is...will they check for the actual methods being called, or just ask the developer to check a few boxes on their submission?
  • i'm not sure, seeing as private api's are banned and api's must be used to perform these privacy actions, it's not inconceivable that the auto app scan couldn't make a note of them as they pass through.
  • Yup...if they don't scan-and-ban, this will be meaningless.
  • What also needs to be addressed is when the app developer changes their privacy and access policies once the app is installed. It will hopefully require you to approve it again.
    Apple should make it mandatory that the privacy/access policy is outlined in the iTunes app store for each app. It should require you to agree to it prior to purchase their.
    Sadly most will just click ok and move on and once again scream about it and claim class action status when ultimately it would have been their fault (if they clicked without reading).
    Of course Apple should also allow for refunds IF the developer changes their privacy/access policy sufficiently that the user no longer approves the access the app wants which in turn makes the app useless and no longer functional.
  • Fantastic article.Thanks Again. Fantastic.
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