Senator Al Franken Blasts Apple Over iPhone Tracking

 @ibtimes
on April 21 2011 9:10 AM

Minnesota Senator Al Franken has called out Apple after reports emerged that the company's products were keeping detailed records of the location data of their users.

In a two-page letter sent to Apple CEO Steve Jobs, Franken discusses what he calls the worrisome existence of data that presents the user's location in such detail. But the biggest risk, he says, is what can happen if that data, much of which is unencrypted, falls into the wrong hands.

Anyone who gains access to this single file could likely determine the location of a user's home, the business he frequents, the doctors he visits, the schools his children attends, and the trips he has taken -- over the past months or even a year. he writes.

Franken speculates that wrongdoers could also rely on computer programs to scour the devices as well. It is also entirely conceivable that malicious persons may create viruses to access this data from customers' iPhones, iPads, and desktop and laptop computers, he writes, noting that there are many ways in which the collected information can be abused.

The senator also raised concerns that the location data poses particular risks to children and teenagers who use Apple devices. An estimated 13% of Apple iPhones and iPads are used by people under the age of 18.

Franken ends the letter by asking Jobs a nine key questions, many of which touch on the same issues and concerns raised by the initial reports. Among them are whether the conduct is permissible under the terms of Apple's own privacy policy.

He also expresses concern why Apple customers were never informed of the data, or given the ability to opt out of its collection. Why were Apple consumers never affirmatively informed of the collection and retention of their location data in this manner? Why did Apple not seek affirmative consent before doing so?

While it is not clear whether Apple or its partner companies have accessed the data, this is a another key question that Franken asks, and one that Steve Jobs may be forced to answer in the coming days. So far, however, Apple has yet to issue a response to the reports. 

 

 

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