This week, both Google and Apple told developers that they need to eliminate X-Mode social tracker software from all of their apps or get banned. Both the tech giants are expecting to block X-Mode Social from collecting location information from smartphones.
Apple told app developers that they have two weeks to remove the tracker from their apps, while Google gave developers seven days to remove X-Mode. A total of 30 developers made almost 100 apps that consisted of the tracking software.
Apple places a ban on apps carrying X-Mode tracker
Vice wrote a piece on how X-Mode collects data directly from apps and then sells it to government contractors that provide it to the U.S. military. X-Mode’s CEO said that it tracks more than 25 million devices in the United States and approximately 40 million elsewhere, and the company pays developers to include its SDK in their apps.
The statement issued by the CEO led to a government investigation into the sale of the data, which eventually lead to the Google and Apple ban. X-Mode said that it has been unfairly targeted even though many different companies collect similar data and that it is now reevaluating its relation with government work.
A ban on X-Mode’s SDK would have broader ecosystem implications considering X-Mode collects similar mobile app data as most advertising SDKs, and Apple and Google would be setting the precedent that they can determine private enterprises’ ability to collect and use mobile app data
‘Doing the right thing’ is how Senator Ron Wyden, the person who started the investigation, summarized the restriction placed by Google and Apple.
Americans are sick of learning about apps selling their location information and other sensitive data to anyone with a checkbook, including to the government. Apple and Google deserve credit for doing the right thing and exiling X-Mode Social, the most high-profile tracking company, from their app stores. But there’s still far more work to be done to protect Americans’ privacy, including rooting out the many other data brokers that are siphoning data from Americans’ phones.
In iOS 14.3, Apple is placing certain rules that require developers to disclose in detail what data is being collected from the people that use their apps. In addition to that, starting next year, apps will have to get user permission to track people across websites and apps.