Federal investigators launch criminal probe over mobile app privacy concerns

pandoraFederal investigators have begun investigating a number of smartphone app makers to determine whether their mobile software illegally transmitted or obtained user data, reports the Wall Street Journal. One of the apps included in the probe, which was launched by federal prosecutors in New Jersey, is popular online music streaming service Pandora.

On Monday, Pandora disclosed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it had received a subpoena related to a federal grand-jury investigation “in early 2011” that seeks to uncover whether certain mobile apps properly informed their customers about the personal data, like location, age, and gender, that was collected and shared with a variety of advertisers.

Pandora said that prosecutors informed the company that it is “not a specific target of the investigation.” Instead, the subpoena had been issued “on an industry-wide basis to the publishers of numerous other smartphone applications.”

“We were served with a subpoena to produce documents in connection with a federal grand jury, which we believe was convened to investigate the information sharing processes of certain popular applications that run on the Apple and Android mobile platforms,” Pandora said in a statement on the matter.

Privacy concerns over the information collected and shared through mobile applications is nothing new. Late last year, the Wall Street Journal found that, out of 101 apps tested, 56 broadcast phones’ unique identification number without users’ consent or knowledge. And 45 apps failed to provide privacy policies in any form, either on their website or in the app.

While it is not yet clear how many app developers have been hit with the subpoena, or whether Pandora’s claims that the subpoena has been issued “industry-wide” are accurate. Sources tell the Journal, however, that both Apple and Google, both of which distribute apps through online mobile app marketplaces, have also been contacted by investigators.

Because criminal charges could be brought forth against companies in this case, the nature of the current investigation is said to be rare. Experts say that companies that could face criminal charges usually do not, instead opting for non-prosecution or deferred prosecution settlements.

Photography

Adobe MAX 2018: What it is, why it matters, and what to expect

Each year, Adobe uses its Adobe MAX conference to show off its latest apps, technologies, and tools to help simplify and improve the workflow of creatives the world over. Here's what you should expect from this year's conference.
Photography

Photography News: Raw edits on iPad and an A.I. research lab for PicsArt

In this week's photography news, Canon launched an iPad app that allows for RAW edits on the go. Popular mobile editing app PicsArt now has a research lab dedicated entirely to A.I.-powered tools.
Mobile

Pocket transforms articles into podcasts with an assist from Amazon

Read-it-later app Pocket is adding an option to turn articles into easily navigable podcasts with its new app redesign for iOS and Android. The feature relies on Amazon's voice-to-text service Polly.
Social Media

Instagram is testing a new way for you to look through your feed

Instagram is constantly tweaking its app to help give its users the best experience possible, so how do you like the sound of tapping — instead of swiping — to look through your feed?
Mobile

Got gadgets galore? Keep them charged up with the 10 best USB-C cables

If you weren't already aware, USB-C is quickly becoming mainstream. That's why we've rounded up some of the better USB-C cables on the market, whether you're looking to charge or sync your smartphone.
Computing

How to protect your iCloud account

From Chinese hacking to identity theft, it's not surprising if you're a little worried about your iCloud data. Here's how to protect your iCloud account with a few simple security steps. It will only take a few minutes, and we'll walk you…
Mobile

Preapproval for iPhone Upgrade Program now available for iPhone XR

Apple took the wraps off of its new set of iPhones, including the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and the new iPhone XR. The iPhone XR is being offered as the "affordable" iPhone, and it's a little different than the more expensive models.
Computing

Which is best: The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme or the 15-inch MacBook Pro?

To try and help nail down the best 15-inch laptops in the world, we compared the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme vs. MacBook Pro 15 in a head to head that looked at their power, design, and portability.
Mobile

Google Pixel 3 vs. Apple iPhone XS: Does Google’s A.I. take down Apple?

The Google Pixel 3 is here, boasting top-tier specs like a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 and 4GB of RAM, and some of the world's best artificial intelligence features on a phone. But can it take out the Apple iPhone XS?
Mobile

Hinge's new feature wants to know who you've gone out on dates with

With its new "We Met" feature, Hinge wants to learn how your dates are going with matches in its app. That way, it can inject the information into its algorithm to provide future recommendations that better suit its users' preferences.
Mobile

Which Verizon plan is best for you? We check out family, individual, and prepaid

Verizon offers lots of plans for individuals, your family, and folks who want prepaid service. Here is everything you need to know about Verizon's plans, from data packages and smartphones to Big Red's prepaid plans.
Mobile

Safeguard your new Apple smartphone with one of our favorite iPhone XS cases

If the iPhone XS is your next phone, then you’ll want to shop for some proper protection now. That glass sandwich design is all too easy to scratch or crack, so make sure you snag one of the best iPhone XS cases to keep it looking good.
Mobile

Here are our favorite wireless phone chargers for Android devices and iPhones

We checked out the best wireless phone chargers to make tangles and uncooperative ports a thing of the past. Whether you have an iPhone or Android, find out which wireless charging pads are worth buying, and how their features compare.
Gaming

Apple Mac users should take a bite out of these awesome games

Contrary to popular belief, there exists a bevy of popular A-list games compatible for Mac computers. Take a look at our picks for the best Mac games available for Apple fans.