US lawmakers probe accuracy of App Store privacy ‘nutrition labels’


Are Apple App Privacy labels correct enough to be useful?
Congress wants to know if Apple can confirm the accuracy of App Privacy labels like this one.
Photo: Cult of Mac

A U.S. House of Representatives committee sent Apple CEO Tim Cook a letter with questions about the App Privacy labels displayed in the App Store. The letter was prompted by a published report that many of these privacy “nutrition labels” contain incorrect information.

App Store ‘nutrition labels’ might not be healthy

The goal of the privacy labels is to give users concrete information about how their personal data is being used by tech companies. But that’s been cast into doubt.

A request for more information abut them came from the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce. In it, the congresspeople write, “Simplifying and enhancing privacy disclosures is a laudable goal, but consumer trust in privacy labeling approaches may be undermined if Apple’s App Privacy labels disseminate false and misleading information.”

And there’s reason to suspect that’s happening. In January, an article in the Washington Post alleged that spot checks of the labels found that they often didn’t line up with the actual privacy practices of the respective applications. Apps that claimed to do no tracking were supposedly doing quite a bit. Or tracking users in ways they didn’t fully acknowledge.

The heart of the problem is that Apple asked developers to describe their own privacy practices. And apparently not everyone told the truth.

Congress questions accuracy of Apple’s App Privacy labels

The lawmakers’ February 9 letter to Apple’s CEO included a number of questions they’d like answered. The iPhone-maker previously stated it audits the information submitted, but the congresspeople want details on how. And they want to know what happens when Apple finds an incorrect App Privacy label. There’s also a question about additional oversight on software aimed at children.

They request answers to their queries by February 23, 2021.

And beyond simply answering these questions, the House committee members want action. “We urge Apple to improve the validity of its App Privacy labels to ensure consumers are provided meaningful information about their apps’ data practices and that consumers are not harmed by these potentially deceptive practices,” the subcommittee’s letter says.

Source: US House of Representatives


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