Apple, Google will testify to Senate on location tracking


29 April 2011

Representatives from both Apple and Google will testify at a Congressional hearing next month on consumer privacy and smartphones, two US senators confirmed on Thursday.

“I’m pleased that Apple and Google have confirmed that they’ll be sending representatives to testify at my upcoming hearing on mobile technology and privacy,” said Senator Al Franken (pictured) in a statement.

Franken, who chairs a new Senate privacy panel, added that the hearing was a “first step” in Congressional inquiries whether federal laws have kept up with the surge in mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets.

Leahy, the chairman of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, also acknowledged the participation of the two firms. “It is essential that policy makers and the American people have complete and accurate information about the privacy implications of these new technologies,” Leahy said in a separate statement.




Franken kicked off the inquiry last week on the same day that two British researchers reported that Apple’s iPhone and 3G iPadconcealed an unencrypted file containing thousands of location data entries going months. The unsecured file was also backed up on users’ PCs and Macs during synchronisation.

On Monday, Franken asked both Apple and Google to testify at his hearing. Wednesday, Leahy followed up with a letter to the two companies, urging them to accept Franken’s invitation as he noted “deep concern that [ Android Phones and iPhones] collect, store and track user location data without the user’s consent.”

While most of the focus has been on Apple and its iOS – the mobile operating system that powers the iPhone and iPad – Google’s Android also collects location information from users’ smartphones.

Apple has denied that it tracked users but said it would make changes to iOS.

Meanwhile, Google has said it collects location data from Android phones only when owners opt-in. “Any location data that is sent back to Google location servers is anonymized and is not tied or traceable to a specific user,” the company told the IDG News Service on Monday.

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