A lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas earlier this week by 13 individuals alleging that "the defendants -- several of the world's largest and most influential technology and social networking companies -- have unfortunately made, distributed and sold mobile software applications that, once installed on a wireless mobile device, surreptitiously harvest, upload and illegally steal the owner's address book data without the owner's knowledge or consent." The defendants in question are Facebook, Apple, Twitter, Yelp and 14 other companies.
This claim, if true, is pretty worrisome for users of the apps, such as myself. Last month, one of the companies named in the suit was pressured into issuing a public apology after a Singapore-based programmer uncovered the fact in a blog post. An article, Mobile Apps Take Data Without Permission by the New York Times, was cited several times in the 152-page complaint. This lawsuit comes at a time privacy concerns over mobile applications appears to be steadily rising.
According to our source:
Apple, Facebook, Yelp and Foursquare did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this week's lawsuit. A Twitter spokesman said the company did not comment on pending litigation.
In addition to this lawsuit, several lawmakers have asked Apple to respond to a series of questions about the company's polices for vetting the privacy practices of iOS mobile application developers. These questions were at least partially prompted by the controversy surrounding the Path disclosure. Along with these inquiries, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) has asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Apple and Google on reports that some iOS and Android applications uploaded photos from mobile phones without the user's knowledge or permission.
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