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Apple tells US govt iPhones are not spying on you

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Apple and a number of other tech companies like Facebook and Google are under fire in the US after privacy concerns erupted after the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal. The iPhone maker recently responded to the government’s concerns in a letter.

Lawmakers wrote to both Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet CEO Larry Page in July about claims that their smartphones constantly listened in and collected audio data from conversations in order to hear a trigger phrase like ‘Hey Siri’ or ‘Okay Google.’ Neither brand has publicly revealed their answers, but Reuters managed to obtain Apple’s reply.

Is Your iPhone Spying On You?

Apple says that iPhones don’t record audio while listening in for Siri wakeup commands. The voice assistant doesn’t share spoken words either. Moreover, users need to explicitly allow microphone access and apps have to show a clear signal that they’re listening.

This covers Apple’s own practices, but it doesn’t quite answer questions about third-party apps. These applications may not be as concerned with privacy and could even exploit the data they’ve gathered without informing users. Apple says it does not and cannot monitor what developers do with the information they’ve collected.

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Furthermore, Apple can’t prevent the transfer of data and it doesn’t have the ability to make sure a developer is complying with their own privacy policy or local law. It did, however, admit to banning apps from the App Store if it caught them violating its privacy rules.

Apple apparently rejects around 36000 apps from the App Store from the 100000 submitted every week for violating its guidelines. It didn’t comment on whether it had ever banned a developer for the same.

Apple also stated that it was up to a developer to notify people if an app got booted for privacy reasons. The US government is now going to review the responses it’s gotten as it considers its next steps.