Magazine article Information Management

Apple's Privacy Headache Intensifies

Magazine article Information Management

Apple's Privacy Headache Intensifies

Article excerpt

Apple is taking heat for its privacy policy in both Germany and the United States. On April 30, a Berlin court ruled that Apple's privacy policy violates Germany's privacy law. Apple must either change its policy or appeal the decision.

In 2011, the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (VZVB) accused Apple of "unfair contractual clauses" in its privacy policy, according to PCWorld.com. The company eventually changed five of the 15 clauses that were cited by VZVB, but the federation was not satisfied. In 2012, VZVB filed a lawsuit against the software giant. In response, Apple committed to changing two additional clauses, but the VZVB contended the policy still violated German law. The court agreed.

Apple's German privacy policy, which is similar to the U.S. policy, gives the company broad and unspecified use of customers' private information. It also allows Apple to use the personal information for the issuance of gift cards. German law, however, requires that a company advise customers of exactly what personal information would be used and for what purposes.

As of press time, Apple had not commented on whether it would appeal the decision or change its policy accordingly.

Meanwhile, in the United States, privacy watchdog group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) blasted the technology giant for its lack of transparency with its privacy policies. According to the EFF, Apple could be freely giving up user information to the government. Apple was one of four companies the EFF cited for its lack of transparency; the others were AT&T, Verizon, and MySpace.

EFF cited the four after evaluating 18 companies on six criteria:

* Whether a warrant was required for content of communications

* Whether the firm tells users about government data requests

* The availability of published transparency reports

* Published law enforcement guidelines

* A public record of fighting for user privacy rights in the courts

* Whether the firm supports efforts in Congress to protect privacy rights

The news for Apple wasn't all bad, though. EFF recognized it and AT&T for being members of the Digital Due Process coalition, a group that advocates for user privacy issues in Congress. Only Twitter and Sonic.net received gold stars for all six criteria.

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