Though Apple has long touted its user privacy safeguards as a selling point over rival brands, recent reports reveal an app designed for use on its products had been secretly collecting internet browsing data.
In a letter to the company, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, expressed his concern over the revelation and asked CEO Tim Cook to provide some measurable remedies.
According to Multichannel News, the Adware Doctor application remained available in the App Store until news began to spread publicly that it had been sending private user data to China.
Rubio, who has spoken out against the threat posed by Chinese entities gaining access to American intellectual property, wrote in his letter to Apple that this development exacerbates the situation.
“For a company that prides itself on prioritizing user privacy and security, this delayed response is extremely disconcerting,” he wrote.
Rubio added that the company’s inability to find and remove the threat in a timely manner amounted to a violation of customers’ trust.
“It is also troubling that Apple researchers failed to uncover Adware Doctor’s covert collection and ‘storage’ process,” he wrote. “Over the last decade, Apple’s Mac App Store has seen more than 170 billion downloads, and your users have trusted your company to protect them from unsolicited intrusions.”
The remainder of Rubio’s letter consisted of four broad concerns he would like Cook to address, beginning with when Apple was aware of the issue.
“Why were the claims involving Adware Doctor’s use of the user data not immediately investigated?” Rubio wrote. “Was this an oversight issue or were the claims of the researchers simply disregarded?”
He also wants to ensure that Apple’s customers can rely on the company to protect their data in the future.
“What steps will Apple management take to respond in a more prompt and efficient manner to researcher concerns that are brought to your attention?” Rubio asked.
Furthermore, he wants to know what Apple will do “to audit application updates in a more expeditious manner.”
His last point echoed past concerns about nefarious intrusion from China and other foreign nations.
“What steps will Apple take to ensure that applications using Apple’s Mac App Store have appropriate security protocols in place to prevent foreign actors from gaining access to user data?” Rubio wrote.
Earlier this year, the senator proposed a restriction that would prevent the U.S. government from purchasing equipment from Chinese tech firm ZTE.
“These companies have direct links to the Chinese government and Communist Party,” he said in June. “Their products and services are used for espionage and intellectual property theft, and they have been putting the American people and economy at risk without consequence for far too long.”
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