Congress takes aim at Apple over 'lack of disclosure'

 
on April 28 2011 12:07 PM
Apple iPad workers forced to sign ‘not allowed to commit suicide’ pact
Apple iPad workers forced to sign ‘not allowed to commit suicide’ pact Reuters

Congress members slammed Apple after the company released its official response to revelations that its devices are tracking user movements.

Representative Jay Inslee of Washington said that a Federal Trade Commission investigation is still needed to ensure all the questions regarding this issue, including the lack of disclosure, are answered.

Inslee said he has not received a response from Apple to questions in a letter he sent last week.

His letter came as researchers revealed that Apple's iPhone was maintaining a file on the device that was keeping rough estimates of the places that users have physically visited. Surprisingly, the data was not encrypted and easily assessable.

In a Q&A posted on its Apple's Web site yesterday, it said Apple is not tracking the location of your iPhone. Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so.

The company went on to say that the current implementation is an oversight, and that future updates would encrypt the data and not store so much of it.

But some lawmakers are not satisfied with the response, saying Apple needs to do more.

Edward Markey of Massachusetts said he was pleased that Apple would encrypt local information, but said that wasn't enough.

The Apple Q&A raises questions about the use of location information for targeted advertising to iPhone users. I will be following up with Apple to get clarification on this issue, Markey said.

Location information is extremely sensitive and must be safeguarded, Market explained. By providing these additional consumer controls, using an Apple everyday should help keep the predators away.

It is currently unclear how pervasive this practice is across the wireless device industry and the extent to which it has been disclosed to consumers.

Congress has extended their probe into other device makers as well, asking Apple and others to divulge how they use location data.

The Senate will take on mobile privacy concerns in a hearing on May 10 slated to be the first topic the new judiciary subcommittee on privacy, technology and the law will tackle.

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, said Senator Al Franken, chairman of the new subcommittee.

Fred Upton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, as well as Reps. Greg Walden, Lee Terry, Mary Bono Mack, and Marsha Blackburn, penned a letter asking how the data is accessed, whether it can be transferred, and to what extent a user has control over this data, among other things.

They have asked the companies to respond no later than May 9.

 

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