New Jersey Feds Call Grand Jury Investigation Into Smartphone Apps
According to the Wall Street Journal, federal authorities are looking into whether or not app manufacturers properly disclosed the kinds of personal information their apps collect from users, and whether or not they provided justification for doing so. Failure to notify and inform consumers about data gathering could constitute a violation of federal law, a source close to the investigation explained.
Pandora Media confirmed the investigation yesterday, when an SEC filing from the company revealed that it had received a subpoena in "early 2011." According to the company, though, Pandora Media is "not a specific target of the investigation," as "similar subpoenas were issued on an industry-wide basis." Anthony Campiti, the man behind the 'Pumpkin Maker' iPhone app, also confirmed that he received a subpoena. Neither Google nor Apple commented on the matter.
Back in December, the Journal tested 101 apps for Android and iPhone, and discovered that many of them automatically share information with third parties, including a users' age, gender, location, and unique phone ID numbers. If any of these app makers didn't properly inform users that they would be sharing these types of data, they could be in violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
At this point, though, it's unclear where the probe will lead, or whether or not it will even result in criminal charges. The investigation will likely take several months to complete, and it could eventually turn into a civil case.