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Pandora says government investigating smartphone app privacy

updated 04:05 pm EDT, Mon April 4, 2011

Pandora reveals government checking app privacy

Pandora in an SEC filing on Monday revealed that a federal grand jury was investigating the privacy of Android and iPhone apps. A subpoena earlier this year had asked it for data on how it was sharing information as part of a larger look at Android and iOS. The Internet radio provider wasn't a subject of the investigation, but it was inclined to believe there was an investigation underway on an "industry-wide basis."

The company was worried the investigation would both cost money and reflect badly on the company. Even if Pandora hadn't done anything wrong, the stigma of an investigation could hurt Pandora's market share from customers worried about perceived privacy invasions. Pandora collects e-mail addresses but has little that could directly tie an account to a user, such as the age, area, gender, and anything willingly put up on a profile.

Neither Apple nor Google has detailed the nature of the investigation.

The complaint has surfaced as complaints have surfaced of apps that are either collecting more information than they should or don't give users a clear idea of what's happening with their information. The high-profile iPhone app Color has drawn controversy for asking for information even before it was clear what the app would do. On Android, the issue has had more to do with rogue apps that harvest the user's phone number and other info to participate in scams or simply to get more informatoin than needed. Most hostile Android apps are found outside the Market, but a few deceptive apps have found their way into the Market and were only pulled after they did damage.

Apple has typically been pro-privacy policy owing to Steve Jobs' personal beliefs about information sharing. Google has also largely respected privacy and puts tight controls on features like Latitude, but Android's deeper access to contacts and device data has created more room for risk.

by MacNN Staff



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