updated 05:35 pm EDT, Wed March 14, 2012
Congress not initially happy with Apple response
Energy and Commerce Committee members GK Butterfield and Henry Waxman sent a letter to Apple Wednesday asking it for more information over ongoing app privacy concerns. The two said that a reply given by Apple on March 2 "does not answer" some of the questions they had asked about what privileges apps have over photos and tracking. Apple was asked to provide representatives who would brief staff on the committee about Apple's efforts.
Most of the concern was raised after discoveries that apps like Path could initially get access to a user's contacts, as well as photos, without asking the user. Path and some other app developers have voluntarily changed their practices, and Apple has promised fixes. Apple CEO Tim Cook, in his response to the initial letter, said Apple was focused on providing "clear and transparent notice, choice, and control" for users, and that most apps were non-issues.
The call for tougher scrutiny would come in spite of Apple agreeing to a California app privacy agreement that would provide details of app behavior before the download so they could make informed choices. Although a state deal, it would apply by extension to all states and achieve at least some of the effect of warning users in advance.
Apple doesn't necessarily face legal action. Such inquiries are sometimes used more to get information and assuage fears than to demand immediate changes in policy. A call to investigate Carrier IQ over cellphone data tracking so far hasn't led to a formal investigation.