In the fallout from Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, Apple has begun cracking down on apps which share user location data with third-parties. Apple has started sending out emails to developers who infringe on these guidelines, saying that “upon re-evaluation” of their apps they have been found to break App Store rules.
In particular, Apple refers to the clause in the App Store guidelines which notes that Apple can turn down apps which transmit, “user location data to third parties without explicit consent from the user and for unapproved purposes.”
It also dictates that, “Data collected from apps may not be used or shared with third parties for purposes unrelated to improving the user experience or software/hardware performance connected to the app’s functionality.”
In addition to the recent Facebook scandal, Apple is possibly responding to the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, in the European Union. This is part of a wider growing backlash against the perceived misuse of user data by tech companies.
As I’ve argued before, the current data backlash could wind up helping Apple. That’s because, while other tech giants rely on user data to make money, Apple has long been a proponent of user privacy. In recent year, the company has doubled down on this philosophy.
Nonetheless, there is still the chance for this to blow up in Apple’s face, particularly due to its high level of visibility. At his recent congressional hearing, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s notes included a reference to, “Lots of stories about apps misusing Apple data, never seen Apple notify people.” While Zuck didn’t wind up bringing up the point as part of his testimony, it may have been enough to push Apple to revisit some of the apps it had previously approved.