NEWS6 April 2011

Grand jury investigating data sharing in smartphone apps

Legal North America

US— A federal grand jury is looking into data sharing practices in the smartphone app market to see whether phone owners are being properly informed about the type of information collected and who gets access to it.

The investigation has been initiated by federal prosecutors in New Jersey, and comes after a series of academic studies of apps of both the iPhone and Android found examples where potentially sensitive device information and location data were being shared without the permission of the device owners.

The recipients of this data, the studies found, are usually third-party ad networks who could use the information to better target marketing materials or track the success of campaigns in reaching the right audience.

A number of app developers have been subpoenaed to produce documents for the grand jury to review. Internet radio service Pandora is among them, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The grand jury investigation is likely to continue for months before deciding whether any company has a case to answer.