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Smartphone App Makers Face US Privacy Probe

A federal grand jury is investigating whether smartphone apps on Apple and Google’s platforms are illegally obtaining and disseminating its users data, according to several reports.

The criminal investigation will look into how these apps ask for users’ permission in collecting their personal data, and to what purpose the data will serve the app makers, reports The Wall Street Journal.

One app, the music streaming service Pandora, had already received a subpoena requesting information, reports Reuters. The app makers believe they aren’t the sole targets of the investigation and that other, similar subpoenas were issued on an “industry-wide basis”, Reuters said.

A previous experiment conducted by the Journal found the Pandora Android and iPhone apps both transmitted information about a user’s age, gender, location and others to various advertising networks.

If apps were to be found guilty of illegally collecting and transmitting data, their makers could be violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the Journal said. The law, which was crafted to help criminalize computer hackers, could similarly be used to argue that app makers hacked into users’ phones, reports the Journal.

[via WSJ; Reuters]
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