Apple and Google are both cracking down on applications that integrate the X-Mode Social tracking software. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, Apple has informed developers that they have two weeks to remove X-Mode’s trackers from their applications.
The decision from Apple and Google comes after investigative reporting revealed that X-Mode collects data directly from applications and eventually passes it along to US defense contractors. X-Mode would pay to embed its SDK into other developers’ applications in exchange for the location data it collects.
Apple has informed developers that they have two weeks to remove the X-Mode SDK from their applicants, or else the apps could be removed from the App Store altogether. According to toady’s report, a review by Apple found 100 apps made by 30 developers contained X-Mode’s SDK.
Apple cited potential violations of its rules around data use and sharing and gave developers two weeks to remove X-Mode’s SDK. Apple told developers that it appeared X-Mode “surreptitiously builds user profiles based on collected user data,” in violation of its terms of service.
Apple and Google are said to have revealed their decision to ban the X-Mode SDK to investigators working for Sen. Ron Wyden, who has been investigating the “sale of location data to government entities.”
“Americans are sick of learning about apps selling their location information and other sensitive data to anyone with a checkbook, including to the government,” Mr. Wyden said. “Apple and Google deserve credit for doing the right thing and exiling X-Mode Social, the most high-profile tracking company, from their app stores. But there’s still far more work to be done to protect Americans’ privacy, including rooting out the many other data brokers that are siphoning data from Americans’ phones.”
X-Mode has said that it is “re-evaluating its government work,” but it also indicated that it is only collecting data similar to most other advertising SDKs:
“A ban on X-Mode’s SDK would have broader ecosystem implications considering X-Mode collects similar mobile app data as most advertising SDKs, and Apple and Google would be setting the precedent that they can determine private enterprises’ ability to collect and use mobile app data,” the company said.
Apple’s decision to ban X-Mode comes as it continues to double down on privacy within iOS and the App Store. It is requiring new app privacy labels in the App Store and rolling out a new App Tracking Transparency feature in iOS 14 next year. Just this week, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, served as a keynote speaker during the European Data Protection & Privacy Conference.
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