The Public Eye with Eric Chabrow

Google, Apple Asked to Testify at Hidden Files Hearing

Leahy's Invitation Express 'Deep Concern' Over Privacy
Google, Apple Asked to Testify at Hidden Files Hearing

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday sent personal invitations to the heads of Google and Apple Computer, asking them or their surrogates to testify at a May 10 hearing that will explore the use of hidden files that record the whereabouts of smartphone users (see Senate to Probe iPhone, Droid Tracking ).

In the letters to Google CEO Larry Page and Apple CEO Steve Jobs, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., urged the companies to testify about how each of their organizations address privacy concerns raised by the collection and storage of sensitive, personal information by technologies like Google's Android software and Apple's iPhone. Writes Leahy:

"Like many Americans, I read with deep concern recent press reports indicating that [Android Phones and iPhones] collect, store and track user location data without the user's consent,. As Congress considers updates to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and other federal privacy laws, it is essential that the Senate Judiciary Committee have full and accurate information about the privacy risks posed by this new technology.
"The collection and storage of sensitive location information has serious implications regarding the privacy rights and personal safety of American consumers. While there are many benefits to innovative technologies like the [Android Phone and iPhone], American consumers deserve to know the potential risks that these new technologies pose to their privacy and security."

On Wednesday, Apple issued a press release that says it isn't tracking the location of customers' iPhones. "Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so," the statement declared (see Apple Denies It Tracks iPhone Users).

Meanwhile, Google spokesman Chris Gaither said a representative from Google will appear at the hearing, though he didn't identify which executive would testify:

"We look forward to engaging with policymakers about how we protect our users' mobile privacy. We provide users with notice and control over the collection, sharing and use of location in order to provide a better mobile experience on Android devices. Any location data that is sent back to Google location servers is anonymized and is not tied or traceable to a specific user."

Leahy said Apple also will send a company official to testify.

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., who chairs the newly formed Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law (see Senate Forms Privacy Subcommittee), announced earlier this week that he will hold a hearing - Protecting Mobile Privacy: Your Smartphones, Tablets, Cell Phones and Your Privacy - to investigate whether Americans' privacy is being jeopardized by hidden files that record locations users visited on their mobile devices such as iPhones, iPads and Androids (see Hidden Files on iPhone Pose Risk).

About the Author

Eric Chabrow

Eric Chabrow

Retired Executive Editor, GovInfoSecurity

Chabrow, who retired at the end of 2017, hosted and produced the semi-weekly podcast ISMG Security Report and oversaw ISMG's GovInfoSecurity and InfoRiskToday. He's a veteran multimedia journalist who has covered information technology, government and business.

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