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Changes in iTunes policy draw scrutiny from US government

updated 04:15 pm EDT, Fri June 25, 2010

Could run afoul of federal privacy protections

Apple CEO Steve Jobs is being called upon by the US government to answer nine questions regarding its new iTunes location data policy. The co-chairs of the House Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, Representatives Edward Markey and Joe Barton, are reported to have sent a letter to Jobs yesterday, expressing concern that the policy might break Section 222 of the Federal Communications Act, preventing companies from sharing location data without someone's permission. A new portion of the iTunes Store agreement gives Apple and its partners the right to track the "real-time geographic location" of devices to "provide and improve location-based products and services."

The major point of concern is that people must either accept the policy or stop using iTunes-related products entirely. "It is our understanding that Apple's consumers cannot use newly-purchased iPads, iPhones, Apple computers or purchase products for existing Apple products from the iTunes music store unless they accept the revised terms and conditions and include agreeing to the collection and sharing of geographical location data," the letter reads.

Jobs is also being asked to explain why Apple suddenly decided to implement the policy, and to more concretely detail what the data will be used for. Among other things, the letter further requests a list of the internal procedures being used to anonymize data. A July 12th deadline has been set.






by MacNN Staff

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Comments

  1. chas_m

    Moderator

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +9

    Good!

    I don't have any doubt that Apple is using this data responsibly for exactly what they say they are using it for -- to improve location-based products from themselves and third parties -- but I do appreciate the congressmen looking into it and getting some detail to ensure that consumer privacy is respected.

    This is the sort of thing Congress should do more of -- act as a check and balance on unbridled business interests. Either they're starting to pay attention to that, or Apple's just not bribing them hard enough. :)

  1. jameshays

    Joined: Dec 1969

    -5

    US Gov't can kiss my A@@ too

    Our Gov't has engaged itself in so many extra-constitutional engagements that it no longer seems to be able to perform its constitutional duties it is charged with.

    This is no place for Congress. This is a place for consumer reports. Our government is not in place to protect you from stupidity or pick up the slack in your lack of responsibility. Nor is it there to put food on your table or wipe your cheeks when you fall down. If you need that, go move back in with your parents. Our government is here to protect us from foreign debris blowing in from our borders, not to make sure that Apple and Adobe play nice together.

    So here's the consumer beware clause. Apple has stated in their terms and conditions what it will and won't do with your data. If you don't like it, don't buy it. If you accept it and they break their part of the agreement, they are held accountable by the United States justice department. End of story.

    Let's start at the top.
    The Executive Branch - Ensure that laws are carried out and enforced to facilitate such day-to-day responsibilities of the federal government as collecting taxes, safeguarding the homeland and representing the United States' political and economic interests around the world.

    Legislative Branch - Charged with passing the nation's laws and allocating funds for the running of the federal government and providing assistance to the 50 U.S. states.

    The Judicial Branch - Primary function is to hear cases that challenge legislation or require interpretation of that legislation

    What part of the above responsibilities does "Protect consumers from agreeing to terms that may in fact be not in their best interest" ?

  1. chirpy22

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +13

    interesting...

    that they never did this with facebook

  1. herojig

    Joined: Dec 1969

    -6

    I agree with jameshays...

    instead of digging into this, the US government should be locating people competent enough to stop the oil spill in the gulf, and enact/enforce laws so it never happens again. it seems Americans are being protected against things that don't matter, and are exposed to everything else that greedy corps can throw at them. insane!

  1. bobolicious

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +6

    unless they incarcerate...

    ...corporate leaders from racing their weekend yachts I fear oil spills will continue to happen, alongside data mining, and other subversive activity... Once data is relayed it is out of one's control - the complexity & length of the iTunes EULA that is frequently asked for verification merely to listen to a $1 song seems unreasonable...

    I still only buy CDs, and was afraid it was only a matter of time before confidence would lead to dubious practices from Cupertino...

  1. facebook_Ricky

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Jun 2010

    +5

    I agree

    I just bought my iPad yesterday and I was prompt by this message as well.
    Good thing the Gov's are taking action and I definitely wouldn't want to share my location either, its pretty random how the policy suddenly changed without notice.

  1. 010111

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +3

    Barton?

    the same asshat that apologized to BP? and has a perpetually smugger-than-thou attitude concerning basic scientific concepts that are slightly above a high school level?

    yeah. him not understanding how an iPhone works is hardly surprising.

  1. fubar_this

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +3

    Definitely warranted

    As pointed out (for those who didn't bother to read), the FCC and Congress both have privacy laws guaranteeing the privacy of people who use mobile devices and devices that share location data. If Apple is in breach of those laws, they definitely deserve to be punished, and Congress definitely is within their right to investigate whether any laws were broken.

    To the people who think Congress should investigate the oil spill—um, yeah, they have. Remember the hearings? Congress held them, BP came and shed a few tears and in the end Congress hasn't the authority to do anything because the oil companies have lobbied to limit their criminal and financial liability; BP will probably be fined somewhere around $20 million just like Toyota was and no charges will be filed.

    People got mad when Google shared its location data, and they stopped. Why shouldn't Apple be held to the same standard?

  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969

    +3

    Re: Barton?


    yeah. him not understanding how an iPhone works is hardly surprising.


    What, exactly, doesn't he understand?

    And why, exactly, are you all for Apple using your locations, without any ability to say 'no' to them, and then sharing it with others? Would you be fine if all application developers also did the same thing?

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