Grand jury investigation targets smartphone privacy

Pandora said it and likely others received a subpoena for information related to a grand jury investigation

Pandora and possibly other makers of popular smartphone applications are being questioned by a federal grand jury about their privacy practices.

In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday, Pandora said that early this year it was 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," it said.

The company also wrote that it believes similar subpoenas were issued to publishers of numerous other smartphone applications. Pandora was informed that it is not a specific target of the investigation, it said.

Pandora has been the subject of class action lawsuits charging it with violating computer privacy laws.

The company declined to comment beyond the SEC document.

The way that mobile phone operators and application developers handle personal information of users has come under increasing scrutiny recently, as smartphones offer more and more capabilities and become more widely used. Operators and application developers typically only vaguely describe the ways that they share user information.

The problem is an international one. A German politician recently won a legal battle that forced his operator to divulge the information it had collected about him. Details included 35,000 instances when Deutsche Telekom had recorded his location in a six month time span.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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