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Apple won’t let apps steal your iPhone contacts anymore

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Apple has decided to shake up the App Store’s privacy rules in the wake of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal. Apps won’t be able to harvest an iPhone user’s contacts anymore.

Applications have been able to collect address book data for years with a simple request to access phone contacts. Many legitimately need to access this information, but there are also plenty of fraudulent apps out there which only want this data to sell to advertisers or use for their own marketing.

Once an iPhone owner grants them permission to go through their contacts, apps get untold access to names, numbers, profile photos, email addresses, home/work addresses, and birthdays. This is very valuable information for an advertiser to have.

Apple’s Strict New Rules

An iOS developer told Bloomberg that developers can instantly transfer all this contact data into a random server or upload it to Dropbox if they wanted to. Apple doesn’t track this flow and wouldn’t even know where all the info went.

This situation leaves plenty of room for abuse. Apple is now taking steps to correct this by revising its App Store Review Guidelines. From now onwards, apps can’t build a user profile based on collected data or ask others to identify anonymous users.

Applications further can’t utilize information from Contacts, Photos, or other APIs to build a contact database for their own use or for sale to third parties. They can’t even collect data about what others apps are installed on an iPhone.

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Lastly, apps are banned from getting in touch with folks through data obtained from a person’s Contacts or Photos unless they’ve been explicitly granted permission to do so. Applications have to tell the user what this message will say and who will appear to be the sender.

Any app found violating these rules could get banned from the App Store. Apple hasn’t said anything about the data which may have already been harvested for so many years. Who knows, maybe a Cambridge Analytica-level scandal could be around the corner for it in the future.