Apple shuts door on developers building databases from iOS users' address books

Apple shuts door on developers building databases from iOS users' address books
Last week, Apple made some changes to App Store regulations that prevents developers from collecting information about iPhone users' friends and contacts. Before this change, developers could obtain this information without consent from most people involved. Developers often ask users to share their phone contacts to quietly build a database of names and numbers that can be sold to marketers.

At Apple's annual WWDC developers conference last week, the company mentioned that social media sites viewed on Safari will soon ask for permission before allowing users to share content from a site. Sharing content allows social networks to collect user data. While that move was publicized by Apple, the company did not reveal the newly updated App Store Review Guidelines that prevent developers from using address book information to produce a database (see image at the top of this article). Sharing and selling such a database is also prohibited, and Apple also blocked developers from collecting contact information for one reason, and using it for another reason without getting a new consent. 

When an iPhone user installs an app and gives consent, the developer gets a treasure trove of data points about the user's friends. Some apps, including Facebook, now allow for the removal of a user's contacts that have been uploaded, but the vast majority don't. Address Book information can include names, work and home addresses, phone numbers, birthdates, and any photos that the user attached to friends or family members' profiles. This issue is not confined to Apple as Android users also can have the names in their contacts list be turned into a database for marketers.


This is what happened with Facebook when data about users' friends was turned into a psychological political study. These profiles, which were used to determine which party a person supports, were sold to consulting firm Cambridge Analytica in a successful attempt to sway voters for the 2016 presidential election.

In 2013, a mobile flashlight app was sued by the FTC for collecting information from users without their knowledge. The FTC tells consumers to be careful when an app asks for information that has nothing to do with the app's main features.

While Apple has put the new rules in place, it remains to be seen how successful they can be. After all, Apple might not be aware if a developer is using information from a user's address book to collect names and contact information to produce a database.

source: Apple

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21 Comments

1. IT-Engineer

Posts: 543; Member since: Feb 26, 2015

That's stupid, what if a developer wanted to build a Contacts app other than Apple's? Oh wait...

2. kiko007

Posts: 7493; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

Why the hell would you want some random software organization getting your contact info anyway?

4. IT-Engineer

Posts: 543; Member since: Feb 26, 2015

Not if the app doesn't request access to the internet.

5. kiko007

Posts: 7493; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

I'm literally at a loss for words here...

6. Zylam

Posts: 1817; Member since: Oct 20, 2010

LOLOLOL "Only smart people use Android". Kiko when will the entertainment end?

10. IT-Engineer

Posts: 543; Member since: Feb 26, 2015

Please do explain why? I'm talking from experience with a background as a lead developer. Unless you have more experience than I do then please do elaborate.

3. yyzamin

Posts: 382; Member since: Aug 26, 2015

I don't know many people who think it would be a good idea to give a developer my contacts list.

12. RebelwithoutaClue unregistered

I'm pretty sure you can still use an alternative contacts app (like Truecaller). Just not build a database of all the contacts and store it on an external source.

16. piyath

Posts: 2445; Member since: Mar 23, 2012

Nobody should build databases from user info gathered secretly. That's violation of user privacy. They build them just to sell them to other companies who target ads inside your browser or any other App.

7. Back_from_beyond

Posts: 1420; Member since: Sep 04, 2015

Apple just wants to discourage others so they can sell the info themselves. It just an attempt to hide their own attempts at growing their advertising business under the guise of protecting the privacy of their users.

8. DolmioMan

Posts: 332; Member since: Jan 08, 2018

What a terrible conspiracy theory. They make huge amounts of money from hardware and services so it’s unlikely that they’d undermine all of their security and privacy efforts just to make a quick $ from user data.

9. Back_from_beyond

Posts: 1420; Member since: Sep 04, 2015

Apple recently announced that they were expanding their advertising network, adding more advertising in iOS and expanding their services to third parties while preventing other like Facebook and Google from accessing your data. How do these changes not fall perfectly in line with promoting their own services? Just because you don't want to believe it, doesn't make it any less true. Apple is a greedy company like any other, wanting to make as much money off their users as they can.

11. kiko007

Posts: 7493; Member since: Feb 17, 2016

Every sentence you just wrote only amounts to conjecture based on your own biases. "Apple recently announced that they were expanding their advertising network" First of all, Apple hasn't announced anything of the sort. An analyst published that information with little to no evidence whatsoever. Secondarily, you realize that you can have an advertising network WITHOUT SIPHONING EVERY OUNCE OF DATA KNOWN TO MANKIND... right? "Just because you don't want to believe it, doesn't make it any less true." I swear to the Buddha, the sheer lack of self-awareness on the part of many commentators here is appalling. The entire premise of your posting here, to raise alarms at a potential scheme, undermined by your own statement at the end of it all. Priceless. Pricelessly stupid... that's what you happen to be.

13. Back_from_beyond

Posts: 1420; Member since: Sep 04, 2015

Having seen the lengths you go through to protect your precious Apple, I can honestly say your self-awareness is in a far worse state than mine. But that's what Apple prefers, people who can't form their own opinions, who need to be spoon-fed what to buy, what to use, what to think. You've stepped into so much bulls**t Apple has shoveled your way, that you can no longer see that they're still piling it on and screwing you over at every turn. The whole CPU throttling and having to buy new batteries after a year, was an absolute new low for Apple users to just sit and swallow and still begged for seconds. If that happened with any Android phone guys like you would eviscerate them, but when it happens to you and is done by your beloved Apple you praise them for it. Say what you want about me, but take a good hard look in the mirror and realize you're in a far worse state than I will ever be.

14. CecicliaGarcia

Posts: 27; Member since: May 08, 2018

Personal privacy, feeling another world surrounded by advertisements

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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