Apple and Google have told developers that they will be required to remove X-Mode Social tracking software for their apps, or risk removal from both companies’ app stores.
The Wall Street Journal reports Apple and Google made the decision in order to prevent X-Mode Social from collecting information from smartphones and their users after it was revealed the company sells the data to U.S. defense contractors.
Apple told developers that they have two weeks to remove X-Mode trackers from their apps, Google has told devs that they have seven days to remove X-Mode from their apps. Apple found that 100 apps made by 30 developers included the X-Mode software.
Last month, Vice reported how X-Mode collects data from the apps and then sells it to government contractors, who then share it with the U.S. military. X-Mode compensates developers for including its SDK in their apps. X-Mode’s CEO in April boasted that it tracks over 25 million devices in the United States, as well as 40 million devices in other parts of the world.
That led to a government investigation conducted by Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), into the sale of location data to government entities.
X-Mode claims it is being unfairly singled out because other countries also collect similar data. The company now says it is reevaluating its government work.
“A ban on X-Mode’s SDK would have broader ecosystem implications considering X-Mode collects similar mobile app data as most advertising SDKs, and Apple and Google would be setting the precedent that they can determine private enterprises’ ability to collect and use mobile app data,” the company said.
In a statement, Senator Wyden lauded Apple and Google are “doing the right thing.”
“Americans are sick of learning about apps selling their location information and other sensitive data to anyone with a checkbook, including to the government,” Mr. Wyden said. “Apple and Google deserve credit for doing the right thing and exiling X-Mode Social, the most high-profile tracking company, from their app stores. But there’s still far more work to be done to protect Americans’ privacy, including rooting out the many other data brokers that are siphoning data from Americans’ phones.”
Apple is working to cut down on apps that use these types of tracking methods. The App Store’s new privacy “nutrition labels” are part of a wider privacy effort included as a part of its iOS 14 update which debuted in September.