US senator asks FTC to investigate Apple, Google

Schumer calls on the agency to investigate apps that access the photos of mobile phone users

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission should investigate Apple and Google for allowing applications on their mobile OSes to access users' photographs without permission, a U.S. senator said.

Some mobile applications on the Android and iOS OSes "steal" users photos, said Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat. The mobile OSes allowing apps to access user photos is a "disturbing and potentially unfair practice," Schumer said in a statement issued Sunday. The New York Times reported on the issue last week.

"When someone takes a private photo, on a private cell phone, it should remain just that: private," Schumer said in a statement. "Smartphone developers have an obligation to protect the private content of their users and not allow them to be veritable treasure troves of private, personal information that can then be uploaded and distributed without the consumer's consent."

By accessing user photos, the mobile apps go beyond users' reasonable expectations what information apps need to function, Schumer said. It appears that apps accessing photos violate the Apple and Google terms of service, he said.

"However, it is not clear whether or how those terms of service are being enforced and monitored," he wrote in a letter to the FTC. "In fact, the abuses of apps have only come to light as a result of the work of intrepid independent researchers and technologists.  As a result, it is users and their privacy who suffer."

Google, in a statement, said it is reviewing its policy on apps and photos. The company designed the Android photo file system similar to the ones in Windows and Mac OS, and images were stored on SD (Secure Digital) cards, allowing users to remove the cards and transfer pictures to another device, the company said.

"As phones and tablets have evolved to rely more on built-in, non-removable memory, we're taking another look at this and considering adding a permission for apps to access images," Google said in its statement. "We've always had policies in place to remove any apps on Android Market that improperly access your data."

Apple did not respond to a request for comments.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

More about AppleFederal Trade CommissionFTCGoogle

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Grant Gross

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts