Federal prosecutors are investigating whether several smartphone apps have violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (18 USC 1030). The investigation is examining whether the applications properly disclosed to users the personal data they would collect as well as how such data would be shared. WSJ reports:
Online music service Pandora Media Inc. said Monday it received a subpoena related to a federal grand-jury investigation of information-sharing practices by smartphone applications.
Pandora disclosed the subpoena, issued “in early 2011,” in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. The Oakland, Calif., company said it had been informed it is “not a specific target of the investigation.” Pandora said it believed similar subpoenas had been issued “on an industry-wide basis to the publishers of numerous other smartphone applications.”
This latest investigation comes on the heels of FTC charges against Google arising out of its Buzz shenanigans (recall how Buzz leaked every user’s list of friends to the world). More and more the government is indicating that it will go after tech companies for privacy violations by using statutes which had traditionally been reserved for hackers (such as the CFAA), and by prosecuting for unfair and deceptive trade practices in situations where company privacy policies do not properly disclose to users their intended use of private info.
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