Senator Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, says Apple and Google have agreed to meet
with him to discuss a privacy loophole on smartphones that gives apps unfettered access to
people’s personal photos.
The New York Times reported last week that developers could take photos from Apple mobile
and Google Android devices without the phone owners knowing that the images were being taken.
In Apple’s case, developers can also obtain the location information for each photo.
Mr. Schumer said in a telephone interview that his office had spoken with officials at both
Apple and Google on Monday.
“We asked them if they could find a way on their own to prevent apps from having access to private info,”
Mr. Schumer said. “They were friendly and open to the idea that this ought to be changed.”
A Google spokeswoman, Gina Scigliano, said the company had nothing further to share at that time.
Apple did not respond to a request for comment.
On Sunday, Mr. Schumer said that he planned to send a letter to the Federal Trade Commission
asking the agency to investigate Apple and Google after the privacy concerns came to light.
Claudia Bourne Farrell, an F.T.C. spokeswoman, said the agency had received the letter but she
could not comment further.
“It sends shivers up the spine to think that one’s personal photos, address book, and who knows
what else can be obtained and even posted online without consent,” Mr. Schumer wrote in his letter
to the F.T.C. “If the technology exists to open the door to this kind of privacy invasion,
then surely technology exists to close it, and that’s exactly what must happen.”
Mr. Schumer said if Apple and Google could not come to an agreement to fix the problem,
then he would be forced to take the issue further.
He said other companies had been willing to work with his office to fix issues.
“I’m optimistic that we can get this changed without any regulation,” he said. “If it’s not changed,
then we’ll look the F.T.C., and if that doesn’t work then we’ll look at legislative approach.”
The F.T.C. has warned companies to try to be more vigilant in their efforts to protect consumers
when it comes to privacy.
“Industry should redouble its efforts to focus on privacy issues, or they may face additional pressure
in form of legislation from Congress,” Christopher N. Olsen, assistant director in the division of privacy
and identity protection at the F.T.C., recently told The New York Times.