Friday 23 March 2018

Culture Secretary’s new app faces privacy concerns

Apple users have reported that it does not seek permission when accessing their pictures.

By Grace Rahman, Press Association

Users of a new app launched by Culture Secretary Matt Hancock have reported concerns about privacy issues after claims it can access some phones’ photos without explicitly asking for permission.

Apple users of his new smartphone app reported online shortly after its launch that it accessed their phone’s picture gallery despite them clicking no when asked permission.

Part of Mr Hancock’s remit in his Government role is overseeing data protection policy.

The Press Association has confirmed that the Apple version of the app has in some cases accessed the user’s photos without asking permission at all.

A spokeswoman for Mr Hancock’s constituency office said the app “uses standard Apple technology, for example iOS photopicker technology for access to the camera”.

The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport posted on his Twitter page that he had started the app to “connect with my West Suffolk constituents”.

Users can post statuses including pictures or gifs that can be viewed, “liked” and commented on by the whole Matt Hancock community.

They can also add each other as friends, chat privately and block each other.

The app contains a feed with pictures, videos and political messages from the MP himself which can be liked, shared and commented upon.

Despite the MP’s attempt to focus on usage by his constituents, the app’s news feed – where users can publicly post – has been inundated with jokes.

The app is free to download, but carries a warning that it may contain in-app purchases, although it is not clear yet what those might be.

MP Liz Truss praised the app when it launched on Wednesday morning, saying: “Enjoying using the @MattHancock app as I travel through Suffolk. Almost as good as the real thing. #appy’Anky #tinternettitan”.

Deputy Labour leader and shadow culture secretary Tom Watson was less impressed, tweeting: “I see @MattHancock is generating content again. Hapless though not app-less.”

In a statement, Mr Hancock’s office said the app complied with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

“This app is ICO registered and GDPR compliant. The app is consistent with measures in the Data Protection Bill currently before Parliament.”

Disciple Media, which created the app, has not yet responded to the Press Association’s request for comment.

The move comes after the Conservatives were mocked online for a series of Instagram images taken backstage at the 2017 party conference.

Behind the scenes of Day 3 at #CPC2017

A post shared by Conservatives (@conservatives) on

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