Apple quietly rolled out a new set of rules for developers last week, adding restrictions for apps that suck up the address books of iPhone users, Bloomberg reports. Developers could, for example, sell the databases filled with your friends’ contact information to boost their bottom lines. No more.
Address book requests are fairly typical. Instagram or Snapchat may ask for your address book so they can suggest your contacts as connections on their platforms. Some games may want the information to invite friends to download and play with you. Those are more benign cases. A less benign one: vacuuming up data to build consumer models and sway elections.
Facebook infamously enabled Cambridge Analytica to harvest user data. Apple’s move comes as CEO Tim Cook has criticised Facebook for its mishandling of that data.
Additionally, the new rules prohibit developers from accessing your friends’ information simply because you — not they — gave consent. Apps also can’t reuse data; if they want to use contact data for something else, they have to get consent again. But, as Bloomberg notes, nothing can be done about the data that’s already been shared.
“The address book is the Wild West of data,’’ an iOS developer said to Bloomberg. “I am able to instantly transfer all the contacts info into some random server or upload it to Dropbox if I wanted to, the very moment a user says okay to giving contacts permission. Apple doesn’t track it, nor do they know where it went.” [Bloomberg]