Apple says the new system is evidence of its commitment to thwart identity fraud, but some critics see it as a potential privacy violation.
As VentureBeat pointed out earlier this week, users of the iTunes Store recently were prompted to agree to new terms of service that established “trust scores” to individual Apple devices.
The update was included as part of Apple’s latest operating system, according to a company representative.
That source said the new feature is intended only to prevent fraudulent purchases through the iTunes Store.
Data Apple receives from individual users is quantified into a numeric value before it is sent to the company as a trust score, the representative told VentureBeat.
“To help identify and prevent fraud, information about how you use your device, including the approximate number of phone calls or emails you send and receive, will be used to compute a device trust score when you attempt a purchase,” the agreement reads. “The submissions are designed so Apple cannot learn the real values on your device. The scores are stored for a fixed time on our servers.”
The company says the information it receives will be kept for only a limited amount of time.
Apple defended its reputation for protecting users’ privacy, explaining that the trust scores do not include content from any emails or phone calls.
In a statement to Business Insider, an Apple source further noted that the trust score will not be used for advertising or any purposes other than fraud prevention.
VentureBeat’s Jeremy Horwitz noted that it remains “unclear how the trust score will work on the Apple TV, which has neither emails nor phone calls, but presumably uses similar metrics stored on that device.”
The news comes as Apple faces scrutiny on another front from legislators including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida.
Following revelations that a Mac App Store application had been sending users’ internet browsing history to China, Rubio sent the company a letter requesting specific steps toward preventing similar privacy breaches in the future.
“I have serious concerns about China’s malevolent economic behavior involving the theft of U.S. intellectual property, which costs the United States hundreds of billions of dollars annually,” Rubio wrote “However, the threat of American user data being kept on a server in China is equally alarming.”
The senator went on to recommend steps including an investigation into the apparent delay in notifying users of the threat posed by the Adware Doctor app.
“This significant lapse exposes a range of problems, not least of which are internal coordination issues and possibly a blatant disregard for significant user security concerns that were brought to your attention,” he wrote.
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