Apple bans apps from selling your friends’ contact info

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Apple is clamping down on privacy issues.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

iOS app that misuse iPhone owners’ contact data for their own gain are about to get slammed with the ban hammer.

Apple revealed a number of new ways it’s trying to protect users’ privacy at WWDC 2018, but one major change that wasn’t mentioned on stage could have huge ramifications for companies that try to profit off your iPhone’s contact information.

Many iPhone users don’t realize that for years some iOS apps will access your address book information and sell it to third parties. Apple is trying to stop that this year though by updating its App Store rules to ban the practice.

Selling Contact Data without consent

With the new guidelines, Apple is now limiting how developers can access and share information about an iPhone owner’s friends. Bloomberg reports that the guidelines ban developers from making databases of address book information gathered from iPhone users.

At WWDC 2018, Apple also revealed it made changes to Safari so that it’s harder for advertisers to track and identify users.

In the past, some apps would get permission to view an iPhone’s contact list saying it was for one thing and then they would turn around and use it for something else. Essentially, your contact information, address, phone number, email address, contact photo and more could have been sold to a company without your permission, just because your friend installed an app on their phone.

Selling those databases with third parties isn’t allowed anymore either. Apple’s new rules say that anyone caught breaking the new rules will be banned. Apple is also forbidding apps from contacting people using information collected via a user’s contacts “except at the explicit initiative of that user on an individualized basis.”

Enforcing the new rules might tough to handle. But with the new policy change, Apple will have grounds to kick apps off the App Store if they’re discovered to be misusing private data.