Apple has officially responded to the contact sharing debacle that was highlighted by the Path iPhone app last week. After it was discovered that Path secretly uploaded a user’s entire contact database to its own servers, the controversy sparked more discussion about how Apple needs to enforce its user privacy guidelines more to protect customers.
Third-party apps will have to ask for permission to access contact data from a user, according to Apple. The issue will be remedied with an upcoming iOS update.
“Apps that collect or transmit a user’s contact data without their prior permission are in violation of our guidelines,” Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr told AllThingsD. “We’re working to make this even better for our customers, and as we have done with location services, any app wishing to access contact data will require explicit user approval in a future software release.”
This privacy scandal caused such a firestorm that the U.S. Congress asked Apple if the company is actively working to better protect its iPhone customers’ personal data. Many, many popular apps in the App Store currently access contact data without asking (although several high-profile apps have already been updated with user permission prompts), and Apple will soon make all developers ask customers to give an app explicit permission to use such information.
It’s clear that Apple needed to address this privacy issue, and this requirement is something that should have been enforced in the App Store from the very beginning. An exact date has not been given for when the iOS update will go live, but iOS 5.1 is expected to drop early next month.