Following a report yesterday claiming that Apple was being investigated by the Department of Justice over anti-competitive practices surrounding the launch of its rebranded Beats streaming music service, Bloomberg this evening now corroborates that report. Bloomberg says that the Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether Apple is using its large iTunes store to put rival streaming music services like Spotify at a disadvantage.
Apple has introduced a small but interesting tweak to the way it markets apps on the App Store. As you can see in the screenshot above, non-paid apps are now presented with the word ‘GET’ rather than ‘FREE’. While the reason for the change in how Apple is presenting non-paid apps isn’t clear, it’s likely due to the popularity of ‘freemium’ apps and in-app purchases, something that has been the source of controversy for Apple in the past… Read more
(@FTC) October 28, 2014
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has announced that it is suing AT&T for “deceptive and unfair data throttling”. The FTC’s announcement seems to target AT&T’s practice of lowering data transfer speeds for customers with unlimited data plans versus customers with tiered data plans now offered. From the FTC’s press release:
“AT&T promised its customers ‘unlimited’ data, and in many instances, it has failed to deliver on that promise,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez. “The issue here is simple: ‘unlimited’ means unlimited.”
AT&T has called the FTC’s allegations baseless adding that the carrier has been “completely transparent” with its subscribers.
Apple seemingly wasn’t too happy that it was singled out for an FTC investigation into making it too easy for children to make in-app purchases: following its own settlement back in January, the company’s general counsel Bruce Sewell promptly reported Google for the same thing, reports Politico.
“I thought this article might be of some interest, particularly if you have not already seen it,” Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell wrote to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez and Democratic Commissioner Julie Brill, pointing to a report that criticized Google’s app store over the same issue of unauthorized purchases …
Apple CEO Tim Cook informed Apple employees today via email that the company has settled with the United States Federal Trade Commision over an in-app purchases dispute. Cook says that Apple and the FTC have been negotiating for “several months.” The issue in the App Store comes down to the controversies surrounding children spending money too easily in the App Store without the consent of their parents.
Cook notes that “protecting children” has been a priority for everyone at Apple, and Cook notes that the App Store has industry leading controls for security and privacy, making the need to deal with the FTC surprising. Cook’s email details the safeguards in place for the in-app purchase system. Cook also notes the great lengths that Apple went to in order to appease customers who may have been harmed by in-app purchases:
Last year, we set out to refund any in-app purchase which may have been made without a parent’s permission. We wanted to reach every customer who might have been affected, so we sent emails to 28 million App Store customers – anyone who had made an in-app purchase in a game designed for kids. When some emails bounced, we mailed the parents postcards. In all, we received 37,000 claims and we will be reimbursing each one as promised.
Cook also says that it doesn’t feel right that the FTC intervened here. Alas, a settlement has been reached:
It doesn’t feel right for the FTC to sue over a case that had already been settled. To us, it smacked of double jeopardy. However, the consent decree the FTC proposed does not require us to do anything we weren’t already going to do, so we decided to accept it rather than take on a long and distracting legal fight.
Here’s Cook’s email in full:
Bloomberg reports that the Berlin Regional Court in Germany has told Apple to change its policies for managing customer’s data on its website after ruling that Apple’s terms for data use go against German laws. According to a statement posted by a German consumer group Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband (VSBV), the courts have ruled that Apple cannot request “global consent” for use of a customer’s data” without informing the user of where and how the data will be used. It will also no longer be able to use German users’ data to “promote location-based services and products” or deliver the data to third-parties for advertising purposes: Read more
The Federal Trade Commission released a report today that recommends how owners of mobile platforms can better inform consumers about how their data is being handled. The FTC named a number of companies in its report, including: Amazon, Apple, BlackBerry, Google, and Microsoft, as well as “application (app) developers, advertising networks and analytics companies, and app developer trade associations.”
The recommendations follow the FTC updating its online child privacy law to require parental consent before collecting data from children under the age of 13. It also came as Path agreed to pay an $800,000 settlement to the FTC forviolations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protections Act. Path posted a response to the FTC settlement on its website.
Other recommendations the FTC asked Apple and others to implement include new icons that “depict the transmission of user data” and a “Do Not Track” option for users to easily opt out of their data being sent to third parties.
“FTC staff strongly encourages companies in the mobile ecosystem to work expeditiously to implement the recommendations in this report. Doing so likely will result in enhancing the consumer trust that is so vital to companies operating in the mobile environment. Moving forward, as the mobile landscape evolves, the FTC will continue to closely monitor developments in this space and consider additional ways it can help businesses effectively provide privacy information to consumers,” the report states.
A full list of the recommendations made by the FTC for mobile platform owners, advertising agencies, and app developers is below: Read more
In February, the story broke that Google and other advertising companies were bypassing iOS Safari’s privacy settings and continuing to track users without their consent. Google quickly disabled its code responsible for the tracking after a story from The Wall Street Journal published, and Apple then claimed it was “working to put a stop” to the issue.
Now, a new report from Mercury News claimed the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is considering whether to fine Google over the incident. The decision is expected in the next 30 days:
The Federal Trade Commission is deep into an investigation of Google’s actions in bypassing the default privacy settings of Apple’s (AAPL) Safari browser for Google users, according to sources familiar with ongoing negotiations between the company and the government… Within the next 30 days, the FTC could order the Mountain View search giant to pay an even larger fine in the Safari case than the penalty the Federal Communications Commission hit Google with Friday, say the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The report is referring to Google being recently fined $25,000 by the FCC after it allegedly “deliberately impeded and delayed” an investigation related to Street View cars. The heart of the Safari bypassing investigation is whether the company is violating a previous privacy agreement made with the FTC following controversy over the failed “Buzz” service. The report claimed Google could face up to $16,000 per violation per day for violating the agreement. Google said to Mercury News today it would “cooperate with any officials who have questions” and explained making its +1 compatible on mobile Safari created the issue:
According to a report from Bloomberg (via AllThingsD), the U.S. Federal Trade Commission subpoenaed Apple as part of its antitrust investigation of Google. There are not many details currently, but the report claims the FTC is interested in Apple’s agreement with the company to use Google as its primary default search engine on iOS devices.
The agency’s request for documents includes the agreements that made Google the preferred search engine on Apple’s mobile devices, said the people, who weren’t authorized to speak publicly and declined to be identified. Google rivals such as Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) have criticized these agreements as anticompetitive.
Let’s take a quick break from the hordes of Mountain Lion OSX news to talk about privacy issues within apps…again. However, this time the spotlight is on children’s apps in both Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Marketplace.
The Federal Trade Commission released a report today (PDF) based on a survey that found apps for children do not fully disclose the types of data collected nor do they adequately educate parents about data harvesting.
The consumer protection agency scrutinized privacy policies, recommended each developer give comprehensible disclosures on how data is accrued and shared, including whether children’s data is linked to social network apps, and it even mentioned conducting a six-month review on disclosures and using enforcement if needed. The report focused on the two main app stores themselves and requested more be done to tell children and their parents about privacy concerns…
The FTC filed a lawsuit against W3 Innovations Friday, the parent company of Broken Thumbs Apps, for collecting the personal information of children in their apps. Broken Thumbs Apps have been downloaded more than 50,000 times in the iTunes App Store, and titles include Zombie Duck Hunt, Truth or Dare, and Emily’s Dress Up. Monday, the company settled with the FTC for $50,000.
The FTC’s complaint includes W3 storing more than 30,000 children’s (probably parent’s) emails and personal information on their servers. In one game, the company asked for the child’s name. In the game Emily’s Girl World, it gave children the opportunities to make comments on a related blog, which were stored on a server.
The FTC says since these apps were directly marketed to children and transmitted information over the internet, the apps are in violation of the Children’s Online privacy Protection Pact (COPPA), and the FTC’s COPPA rules. Besides settling, the company agreed to delete all of the children’s personal information off of their servers. (via Ars Technica)