Google and Apple might feel like they don’t have to explain themselves for allowing apps to help themselves to iPhone and Android smartphone users’ photos, but the tech companies have decided to tell it to Senator Charles Schumer. In a phone interview, Schumer, a Democrat from New York, told The New York Times that the two companies have agreed to meet with him so as to discuss the privacy exploit that allows apps access to users’ personal photos.
“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.
Schumer framed his meeting with the two leaders of the smartphone industry as a chance for them to rectify the problem on their own. However, if they don’t fix the problem, Schumer said, his hand would be forced to take the issue further. “I’m optimistic that we can get this changed without any regulation,” he told the Times.
After news broke about Google and Apple’s careless protection of user privacy, Schumer penned a letter to the Federal Trade Commission saying that the news “sends shivers up the spine to think that one’s personal photos, address book, and who knows what else” could be so easily accessed without user consent or knowledge. “Smartphone developers have an obligation to protect the private content of their users.”
In the letter he also called on the FTC to investigate Google and Apple for their photo-poaching practices but that was before his announcement that he’d be meeting with reps for the two companies to try to resolve the matter.
Schumer is a member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and Law, whose jurisdiction includes privacy standards for the collection, retention, use and dissemination of personal information companies as well as privacy implication of new or emerging technologies.