Senator pushes Apple and Google for ‘clear’ privacy policies on apps

A key member of the Senate Judiciary Committee is challenging Apple Inc. and Google Inc. to require all developers that make apps for their mobile devices to adopt formal privacy policies.

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., sent letters to the two companies last week asking that all apps for the iPhone, iPad and devices running Google’s Android software provide “clear and understandable privacy policies.” Such policies would tell users what personal information the app collects and how that information is used and potentially shared. Right now, it’s up to individual developers whether to spell that out.

Franken said that given the popularity of their mobile devices, Apple and Google are in “a unique position to influence the market for apps and protect users’ privacy within that market.”

Franken sent his letters two weeks after he held a hearing to grill executives from Apple and Google about the extent to which iPhones and Android devices track the location of their users and store detailed histories of their movements.

Square’s new app for merchants aims to squeeze out cash registers

First, mobile payments service Square made it easier for merchants to accept credit cards any time, anywhere, with just a smartphone and a tiny, plastic credit-card reader. Now, the startup led by Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey hopes to show them they can abandon cash registers, too.

Square already has a smartphone app that allows people to pay for items by swiping their credit card through a tiny reader that plugs into the headphone jack of a phone or iPad. Customers can sign their name on the device’s touch screen, and then have a digital receipt sent to them via email or text message. About 500,000 merchants have these credit-card readers, which Square has given away for free since 2009. In return, the company takes a 2.75 percent transaction fee on sales.

Last week, Square announced new software, Square Register, to do more. The new app takes over many of the sales features that most stores use cash registers for. It lets merchants keep tabs on inventory and change prices. A menu option allows restaurants to post food options and special deals that customers can see on their smartphones, using a companion app called Square Card Case.

Microsoft planning to upgrade Windows Phone software this fall

Microsoft Corp. said last week that it plans a major upgrade to its Windows Phone software this fall, ahead of the launch of the first Nokia phones to use it.

The revamped software contains a new, faster Web browser and allows users to switch quickly between applications, using a “card” display similar to the one in Hewlett-Packard Co.’s webOS software, which Microsoft bought along with Palm Inc.

Microsoft said the software, code-named “Mango,” will be available as a downloadable update for all Windows Phones sold until then.

Finland’s Nokia Corp., the world’s biggest maker of phones, announced in February that it would adopt Windows Phone and toss out its current smartphone software. Microsoft is paying it billions of dollars to do so, as it’s trying to buy into a market now dominated by Apple Inc. and Google Inc.’s Android software.