The U.S. Congress has asked Apple and Google to warn users about the ‘national security risk’ of apps developed by foreign authorities. Representative Stephen Lynch from Congressional Subcommittee on National Security wrote the letter to both companies, addressing the issue of user privacy and data theft.
Lynch argues that the apps developed by “our adversaries” can easily be used to gather sensitive information of American citizens. He states in the letter:
“While the Subcommittee appreciates the safeguards Apple has put in place to protect user privacy, we remain concerned that mobile applications owned or operated by foreign developers, or that store the user data of U.S. citizens overseas, could enable our adversaries to access significant quantities of potentially sensitive information on American citizens without their knowledge to the detriment of U.S. national security”.
The national security concern was highlighted after the recent ban of Chinese owned TikTok video app by various American companies.
Lynch shared that it will be unreasonable to ban foreign apps in the country or to ask them to store their user data on US servers. Therefore, the tech-giant was asked to alert App Store users about potential privacy and tracking risks.
The letter consists of 4 parts of questions that Apple needs to answer by the end of the month. The demands letter states:
- In its January 10, 2020, letter, Apple advised that it is not aware of any statutory or regulatory limitations that would prohibit it from requiring application developers to provide the locations where user data will be stored.(a) Will Apple commit to requiring developers to disclose the countries in which they store user data collected by their applications?(b) Will the company commit to making this information available to consumers in its application listings on the AppStore?
- Will Apple commit to requiring developers to disclose whether they are a corporate subsidiary of a foreign entity? Will the company commit to making this information available to consumers in its application listings on the AppStore?
- Has Apple previously removed a third-party application from the AppStore due to suspicious or nefarious exploitation of user data by foreign governments? Please describe the circumstances; and
- Does Apple have additional recommendations that would better protect user data stored on third-party applications from foreign collection and exploitation? For example, would Apple consider notifying users in the AppStore if certain applications collect especially personal or sensitive information?
An identical demand letter was sent to Google Inc. as well.
New Privacy Features by Apple
TikTok app has come under scrutiny after China’s political conflict with India which resulted in India banning 59 Chinese apps in the country. To make matters worse for the popular video recording app, the new privacy feature in iOS 14 identified TikTok among other apps, pasting users date copied to the clipboard on iPhones and iPad. The White House was officially considering banning the app from the US, despite the developer’s claim that all US user’s data is stored on US servers.
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