Apple answers Congress' questions on customer privacy

Two iPhones side by side. One red one blue on a sheep-skin rug

The Cupertino company made it clear on Tuesday that it doesn't listen to user conversations without their consent and doesn't allow third-party apps to do so either. And we all remember how, only a few months ago, some Echo speaker users discovered their devices recorded a piece of their conversation and then sent that audio file to a contact.

However, due to Apple changing its rules for app developers, members of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce sent a letter to Cook in July, stating the firm's recent "actions raise questions about how Apple device users' data is protected and when it is shared and compiled".

"Apple does not and can not monitor what developers do with the customer data they have collected, or prevent the onward transfer of that data, nor do we have the ability to ensure a developer's compliance with their own privacy policies or local law", Apple wrote to lawmakers.

Apple has responded to Congress' inquiry regarding data security and privacy practices. They also sought information about any limits Apple and Google place on developers in collecting data from users' devices. "The customer is not our product, and our business model does not depend on vast amounts of personally identifiable information to enrich targeted profiles marketed to advertisers".

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This followed congressional hearings into Facebook's privacy practices, after news emerged that its APIs had been exploited to harvest personal data from users.

In the full-length letter, Apple has explained in detail its location services and has answered all the 16 questions.

The letter mentions that Apple explicitly asks users permission whenever an app tries to access location and it is his/her decision whether to grant the permission or not. The company also said it does not share any "Siri utterances" to third parties. "[Rather], this is really sophisticated machine learning at work". The information will be encrypted and isn't used for targeting advertising. Facebook accused Analytica of violating policies, while researchers who created the quiz app behind the affair claimed that, not only did they do nothing wrong, but they were not the only party to collect data in that way.

"We really need a baseline privacy law [in the United States] that protects people", said Chris Calabrese, VP of policy at the Center for Democracy & Technology.

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