When internet radio giant Pandora updated its SEC filing recently, it announced to the world that the mobile app market could potentially be in for a big change.
Pandora disclosed that a grand jury in New Jersey had issued the company a subpoena to produce information about data collection methods for its Android and iPhone mobile applications.
The subpoena is allegedly part of an industry-wide criminal investigation into how mobile apps collect and utilize user information, reports Ars Technica. Other developers have also been subpoenaed.
Mobile apps, such as Pandora, collect personal user information, often transmitting it to developers or third party advertisers. The investigation is trying to determine the extent of this practice, and whether it has been done illegally or without proper disclosures, reports The Wall Street Journal.
The concern is that app makers have violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, according to the paper. The Act, which prohibits computer hacking, could be used to argue that information mining on cellphones without proper disclosures is akin to hacking.
Chances of mobile application developers being prosecuted are quite slim--it's rare that corporations face criminal sanctions. However, the information collected by the grand jury could be of great use to the Federal Trade Commission.
Developers and users should be on the lookout for an FTC investigation into privacy violations--on the heels of both the Twitter and Google Buzz privacy investigations and settlements, the agency appears to have made user data and information privacy one of its main priorities.
- Pandora subpoenaed in information-sharing inquiry (Associated Press)
- Google Buzz Settlement Reached over Privacy Accusations (FindLaw's Decided)
- Twitter Settlement: Site Promises to Increase Security (FindLaw's Decided)
- 'Do Not Track Me' Bill Would Block Internet Spying (FindLaw's Technologist)