Federal grand jury to investigate Apple, Google over app privacy concerns

A new report filed by The Wall Street Journal suggests that New Jersey federal prosecutors are beginning to take a long, hard look at mobile applications. The publication writes that a grand jury will investigate whether iOS and Android applications distributed by Apple and Google “illegally obtain or transmit information about their users without proper disclosures.” Several application makers, including Pandora Media, informed the Journal that were issued subpoenas by the court, but have been told that they are not the target of the impending litigation.

“In early 2011, 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 noted in a regulatory filing on Monday.

The investigation aims to determine whether mobile application developers have violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by transmitting anonymized (read: not so anonymized) data to app makers and/or third-parties. The report notes that prosecutors could charge individuals or companies with a “felony or misdemeanor” or could “pursue civil charges.” Neither Google nor Apple responded to the WSJ‘s request for comment.

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