Apple appears to be cracking down on apps that are sharing location data with third parties, according to a report by 9to5Mac. Over the last several days, Apple has been pulling apps from the App Store, informing developers that they violate sections 5.1.1 and 5.1.2 of Apple’s App Store Review Guidelines, which cover privacy and obtaining user consent before collecting any kind of personal data, which of course includes location information. Emails sent to developers are advising them that Apple has determined “upon re-evaluation” of their apps that they are in violation of these sections of the App Store Review Guidelines, and that they will need to “remove any code, frameworks, or SDKs that relate to the violation” before resubmitting their app to the App Store.
According to 9to5Mac, the main issue seems to be that the apps in question aren’t doing enough to actually inform users what is happening with their location data, which is particularly important in situations where this data is being shared with third parties other than the app developer. Apple seems to be asking developers to explain how the user’s location data is being used, how it is shared, and who it is being shared with. In some cases, Apple has also targeted apps that are collection location data for reasons that have nothing to do with the user experience — behaviour which is specifically prohibited in section 5.1.2, which reads that “Data collected from apps may not be used or shared with third parties for purposes unrelated to improving the user experience or software/hardware performance connected to the app’s functionality.” The report adds that it’s unclear how widespread this crackdown effort is, although “several developers” have reported being hit by it so far.