German govt asks Apple about iPhone 4 data gathering

29 Jun 2010

First it was Google’s Street View teams’ gathering of private Wi-Fi data that attracted the ire of European governments, but now it seems Apple is next, with Germany’s government expressing concern it may be gathering data on users of its new iPhone 4.

Under German law, any act of gathering data without permission is illegal.

Germany’s justice minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger is understood to have told the magazine Der Spiegel that she has asked Apple to tell German data protection officials about the kind of data the company was gathering on users of the iPhone 4, which went on sale in Germany last week.

Apple, for its part, has said the iPhone 4 gives users in Germany the option of denying the transfer of personal information, including geographic location, to third parties.

Apple joins Google and Facebook among the large technology companies that have fallen under the watchful gaze of German privacy laws, amongst the strictest in Europe.

The rub of the issue may be that while Apple says it gives users the right to deny the transfer of personal information to third parties, in its user manual for the iPhone 4, Apple says it reserves the right to forward data like geo-location to other companies.

This is choppy waters for Apple. Google admitted last month that its Street View teams had collected 600GB of personal data from home Wi-Fi networks as it scanned and photographed streets, sparking off investigations in 12 countries.

In Ireland, Google complied with a request from the Data Protection Commissioner to destroy the data it collected.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years