The controversy comes after two US congressmen wrote to Apple asking why the company was allowing address books to be copied by a third-party app developer.
Arun Thampi, an app developer in Singapore, had flagged up the issue after noticing that his iPhone contacts had been copied without his consent by social network Path.
Dave Morin, the chief executive of Path, apologized for the situation and said that the firm would ask users to opt in to sharing their information in the future, noting that uploading and importing contact information was industry’s best practice leading to concerns from users about other social sites.
There have been reports that services such as Facebook, FourSquare, Instagram and Yelp also routinely access the address books of users. Apple has released a statement claiming that all apps that collect address book data of iOS users without their explicit permission are in violation of the company’s policies.
An Apple spokesman said: “Apps that collect or transmit a user’s contact data without their prior permission are in violation of our guidelines. We’re working to make this even better for our customers, and as we have done with location services, any app wishing to access contact data will require explicit user approval in a future software release”. But the controversy has come because the data appears to have been taken without first informing the user, or indicating for how long it will be stored.
The Los Angeles Times claimed that the Twitter app uploads every single address book contact and then stores the data for 18 months.