When you download an application from the iTunes store today for your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, that app is not allowed to access your address book without you saying so - in iOS 6, that ability is expanded drastically. While the application known as Path started a wildfire several months ago when it was revealed to be accessing user contacts without their permission, it's a relatively giant waterfall of permissions you'll be working with later this year in the next generation in Apple's mobile operating system. The iDevice software known as iOS 6 was revealed this week at WWDC 2012 with a Beta release out now.
The above image is taken from iOS 6, found by MacRumors in a couple places along the system's user interface. The newest version of iOS will have explicit user permission needed before Apple apps can do several actions regarding a user's data. In the Data Privacy section of Apple's iOS 6 Release Notes you'll find the following:
"In addition to location data, the system now asks the user’s permission before allowing third-party apps to access certain user data, including:
- Photo Library
For contact, calendar, and reminder data, your app needs to be prepared to be denied access to these items and to adjust its behavior accordingly. If the user has not yet been prompted to allow access, the returned structure is valid but contains no records. If the user has denied access, the app receives a NULL value or no data. If the user grants permission to the app, the system subsequently notifies the app that it needs to reload or revert the data." - iOS 6 Release Notes
If this is what Al Franken was talking about back when he spoke about location tracking right about this same time last year, he's more than likely set to be a bit more satisfied in the near future. His input on the situation back then called for "clear and understandable" privacy policies written for apps directed at their users. Apple has since agreed to the Senate's measures and this particular addition of permissions is almost certainly a direct result of that agreement.