Senate summons Apple and Google over Mobile privacy

Apple and Google have been recently scrutinized for secretly recording people’s location. This has raised peoples concerns over their privacy and today Senator Al Franken has called up both Apple and Google to attend a hearing with the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law so that consumer privacy can be discussed.

Witnesses such as the Federal Trade Commission, Center for Democracy and Technology and US Department of Justice among others will talk in depth about the consumer’s privacy in regards to mobile technology.

It isn’t all too surprising to see this happened after many people were outraged after two researchers found that Apple were storing peoples locations. This later caused concern over if any other companies were doing something similar, which later found Google were with their Android operating system.

Apple had been bombarded by numerous news sources to justify why they were doing it and similarly goes for Google when they were caught. Now it seems politicians are asking why, as Franken himself sent Apple a letter demanding to know why they are collecting the data but also if users can disable the phone from logging your location. Franken wasn’t the only politician to question the actions by both companies as Representative Ed Markey later followed in Franken’s footstep and also started to ask questions.

In a statement Franken said “Recent advances in mobile technology have allowed Americans to stay connected like never before and put an astonishing number of resources at our fingertips, but the same technology that has given us smartphones, tablets, and cell phones has also allowed these devices to gather extremely sensitive information about users, including detailed records of their daily movements and location. ” He progressed to say “This hearing is the first step in making certain that federal laws protecting consumers’ privacy—particularly when it comes to mobile devices—keep pace with advances in technology."

Both companies have not publicly responded to the Franken’s as of yet although it’s in both their interests to do so unless they want the DoJ, FTC, CDT among others to make plans for any possible legislation without them.

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I just read on cnet that Windows Phone also tracks and sends location information to Microsoft. It's looking more and more like all major mobile OS makers are doing this. The Senate should ask representatives from Apple, Google, Microsoft, RIM, Nokia, and HP to come in and explain what information is stored either on the phone or sent to the respective companies by iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Symbian, and webOS. It appears that law enforcement already knew that Apple's devices were storing this information and relied on the ability to know where each phone has been since it was purchased. Is it the US government that has required these companies to build in this capability, or is the companies themselves that decided to voluntarily track their users? This seems bigger than an unencrypted database file on iOS devices. It may just be the tip of the iceberg, and it may be why Apple isn't allowed to talk about the issue under orders from higher up, perhaps even from the very top.

Looks like we have enough tin foil hats to go around.

If you're scared of it, get an android and opt-out. If you're just wanting to make a scene of it, and don't care if its tracking you or not, then don't buy a phone or tablet. If you're like me, and don't give a damn about it cause you could care less what people *MAY* learn from any info they *MAY* get a hold of, then get whatever you want.

Exactly what I despise about anything related to Google. EVERYTHING they have anything to do with phones home so frequently for no reason at all, I can't stand it.

Don't and won't ever own or install anything Apple related either whether on a phone or a computer.

Not that I'm overly paranoid either, just can't stand these companies!

cralias said,
I've opted out on Android, but I still have non-empty cache file. Why so, m?

From what I have read, if you have approved any app that uses location awareness, it will use this file, not sure though.

I must be one of the few who thinks tracking can be a good thing. If I get into an accident, I'd like to have emergency services find me via GPS. If I get lost, I can use Latitude to "check in" to a nearby place of business, get the address and have a relative guide me out. Tracking and GPS has its perks. It's not always nefarious just because it's there.

Article picture isn' taccurate. The Department of Justice is an exective branch agency and the Senate is legislative. It is routine for Congress to hold hearings on matters.

linuxboynz said,
thats why I bought an Android recently, the opt out ability.

Of course, because that's the ONLY reason you bought an Android...

Hardcore Til I Die said,
Jesus christ, how can so many people COMPLETELY not grasp the fact that its opt in on android?

How can so many completely miss the fact that data never leaves the iPhone?

Leonick said,

How can so many completely miss the fact that data never leaves the iPhone?

So what? The fact that the data stays on the phone doesn't magically prevent it from being accessed by apps and the like, which end up doing what the hell they want with it, including sending it out to a third party. If the data is not there to be used by apps, why is it there at all?

TCLN Ryster said,

So what? The fact that the data stays on the phone doesn't magically prevent it from being accessed by apps and the like, which end up doing what the hell they want with it, including sending it out to a third party. If the data is not there to be used by apps, why is it there at all?

It can only be used by apps if you've rooted your phone; it can't be accessed using stock Android. Also, the file is empty if you don't opt-in to share location data with Google.

There is no privacy scandal here, just misinformed people shouting about that which they do not understand.

Hardcore Til I Die said,

It can only be used by apps if you've rooted your phone; it can't be accessed using stock Android. Also, the file is empty if you don't opt-in to share location data with Google.

There is no privacy scandal here, just misinformed people shouting about that which they do not understand.


Speaking of misinformed people that do not understand... I was replying to the comment about the iPhone version of this file, not Android.

You can go ahead and step down off that soap box now.

TCLN Ryster said,

Speaking of misinformed people that do not understand... I was replying to the comment about the iPhone version of this file, not Android.

You can go ahead and step down off that soap box now.

Sorry I misread the above comment as "How can so many completely miss the fact that data never leaves the phone? "

Leonick said,

How can so many completely miss the fact that data never leaves the iPhone?

Except for every backup you make, so you then have the file setting on a computer that can be accessed. And how do you it never leaves the iPhone, until this week, you never knew the data existed?

This has been massively overblown, on Android you have to specifically opt-in when you first setup your phone and you can opt-out at any time if you change your mind.

thealexweb said,
This has been massively overblown, on Android you have to specifically opt-in when you first setup your phone and you can opt-out at any time if you change your mind.

The fanbois looking to drag someone down with them?

Alansonit said,

The fanbois looking to drag someone down with them?

You have to explicitly accept the Droid tracking. You have to click "Yes". Please don't call be a fanboy either, I have a BlackBerry, not a Droid or a iPhone.

Steve Jobs has answered a customer's inquiry on the subject:

Q: Steve,
Could you please explain the necessity of the passive location-tracking tool embedded in my iPhone? It's kind of unnerving knowing that my exact location is being recorded at all times. Maybe you could shed some light on this for me before I switch to a Droid. They don't track me.
Steve's answer

A: Oh yes they do. We don't track anyone. The info circulating around is false.

Sent from my iPhone

I can't help but think that the government simply wants in on this information. Maybe it's just the conspiracy theorist in my blood.

Otherwise, good on our gov't for protecting out privacy for once.

Reacon said,
I can't help but think that the government simply wants in on this information. Maybe it's just the conspiracy theorist in my blood.

Otherwise, good on our gov't for protecting out privacy for once.

Mmmm, I guess authorities probably have a good way of detecting where we are through cell towers of phone companies anyway if I'm being paranoid.

But my other thinking is..... early election campaignining for free.

They don't need it - they can track you via the towers already.

How do you think they can pinpoint your location when you call your respective 112/911?

daPhoenix said,
They don't need it - they can track you via the towers already.

How do you think they can pinpoint your location when you call your respective 112/911?

Ahh. Didn't realize that. I'm quite a bit behind in mobile technology having never owned a cellphone of any kind. Wacky, isn't it?

daPhoenix said,
They don't need it - they can track you via the towers already.

How do you think they can pinpoint your location when you call your respective 112/911?


They only get your location when you call them. At other times they have to requisition last known location information from the mobile phone companies who require a court order... in the UK at least.