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Franken to hold hearing: Apple, Google invited

updated 09:35 pm EDT, Mon April 25, 2011

Location data storage, security to be discussed

Democratic Senator Al Franken, in a follow-up to his letter to Apple asking about the recently-revealed log of general user locations cached on 3G-enabled iOS devices, will hold a hearing on May 10th looking into the overall practice of how mobile OS companies collect, store and handle consumer data, AppleInsider reports. Representatives from Apple and Google have been invited, but haven't yet confirmed their presence. Others due to be in attendance include officials from the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission and various privacy advocates.

The hearing is titled "Protecting Your Mobile Privacy: Your Smartphones, Tablets, Cell Phones and Your Privacy" and will address concerns "that federal laws concerning consumers' privacy -- particularly when it comes to mobile devices -- keep pace with advances in technology," Franken said in a statement. Senator Franken is the chair of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy. It will held at 10 a.m. Eastern time and be webcast.

Hearings are often just informational sessions to raise concerns and seek answers to public questions, and are not part of any formal investigation. So far, U.S. officials such as Franken, Massachusetts Representative Edward Markey, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and others have focused on fact-gathering without making any accusations that Apple, Google or other mobile companies are mishandling the data. Questions will likely center around why a lengthy log is needed -- security researchers last week showed that iOS 4 was retaining location data for more than a year -- and what, if anything, it is used for.

Apple has not issued a formal statement on the matter, though CEO Steve Jobs recently took time to respond by e-mail to a concerned customer by claiming that Apple doesn't "track anybody" and that many of the assumptions associated with the expanding story are "false." Google, whose Android OS was also found to collect and store location data, issued a statement denying that the information sent to them was identifiable to specific users, instead saying it was solely tied to unique device identifiers.

A class-action lawsuit against Apple has already been filed by two customers in Florida, claiming they would never have bought the devices if they had known that it had location-tracking features. Like Android devices, Apple's mobile devices ask user permission before collecting location information for use with services such as Google Maps, and of course all cell phones send out location information for the purposes of allowing nearby cell towers to make or complete calls. Emergency services such as 911 also use a mobile device's location information, as do recovery features like Find My iPhone.

Other witnesses at the May 10th hearing will include Ashkan Soltani, an independent privacy researcher, and Justin Brookman, director of the Center for Democracy and Technology's Project on Consumer Privacy. [via AppleInsider]

by MacNN Staff



  1. robttwo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Since nothing else is going on

    Good to know - since there are no other issues our politicians should be attending. Like saving the f-ing economy for instance.

  1. Jazzbeau

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Al Franken - comedian, member of Congress

    "Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."
    - Mark Twain, a Biography

  1. ClevelandAdv

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Minnesota should be embarrassed

    After electing Jesse "The Bad Actor" as Governor, you follow it up with a bad comedian in the Senate. Maybe we would be better off with 49 states and Canada could use a new Provence.

  1. JuanGuapo

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Because Congress is doing their job, that's a bad thing?!

  1. Arne_Saknussemm

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Are we to asume...

    Readers posting negative comments regarding Senator Al Franken diehard Republicans?

  1. chas_m



    Agreed, JuanGuapo and Arne

    Yes, this isn't the most important thing Congress could be doing. But surprise people -- Congress does more than one thing at a time! I know this will come as a shock to the type of posters here who can only manage one thought at a time ...

    It's fair to make a case that Franken (et al) are over-reacting to a news media story, but it's ALSO fair to say they are being refreshingly pro-active with regards to protecting consumers' privacy rights. We didn't see much of THAT when the Republicans were in charge, now DID we??

    So far, all Franken (et al) are guilty of is wanting to understand the situation WRT to Apple and Google's use of location data. Nobody's being persecuted, no allegations of abuse or shenanigans have come out from anybody. This is actually a good example of what I *expect* Congress to do, instead of let's say jumping into wars when they don't have any idea of the situation or endgame ...

  1. guzzi

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Diehard R's?

    It's not R's it's not D's it's $$$. Al Franken has every right to be in the Senate, If the voters decided that they want this really BAD comedian to represent them in Congress so be it. What track record or experience did he have? The bottom line is Apple is getting too big and isn't spreading money around in D.C. As soon as Mr. Jobs starts shelling out money down there, this will all go away. Just watch the LOVE FEST that will take place of Stuart has hearings. Do you think Jobs is actually worried about Stuart Smalley? The same for Jessie Jackson Jr., he's looking for money...that's it...shake down, that's all this is.

    I wonder how large Apple's lobbyist staff is now and what it will be?

    Diehard R's ....Please....hum....Are the people posting this kind of thing Looney Left Wing nuts?
    TERM LIMITS TERM LIMTS TERM LIMITS one thing both the R's and the D's agree on....No way they want will fix everything.........

  1. normr

    Joined: Dec 1969


    We're facing $5 fuel prices and people are worried

    Amazing that our legislators have nothing better to do than to worry about an iPhone storing cell tower information, we have so many other nation crushing problems like $5 fuel prices, unemployment, unnecessary wars but a few paranoid people are worried about their cell phones, who cares, even if the phones were storing your actual location and that information could be accessed, that would be a good thing, wouldn't it be great if they could actually get your stolen iPhone back for you when it was stolen by locating it and sending the police to pick it up and arrest the thief.

    So because a couple of so called researchers finding that the iPhone had some kind of location file ( I wonder who they work for and what their agenda is) the paranoid members of our society are freaking out. And the rabid news organizations are in a feeding frenzy over this.

    You people are nuts, we have bigger problems to worry about.

  1. Arne_Saknussemm

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Sorry if sounding too serious, but:

    History, even recent one (ie. last couple months events on near east countries), has tough us the right to privacy goes hand in hand with a healthy democracy, or equally truthful, the reverse can be said of totalitarian regimes.

    The erosion of the individual's privacy (unwilling erosion - not talking about facebook here), be it by the governing powers or large corporations undermines the powers of citizens to exercise their rights as such, leaving them as mere subjects of feudal lords or unconstitutional monarchies.

    PRIVACY - for whatever reasons IS important. Anyone not understanding this is prone to being manipulated. It's to be celebrated that leaders on both major US parties (Kerry & McCain'), as well as the European Union are taking mayor steps to keep citizens in control of their privacy.

  1. Mr. Strat

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Looks like...

    ...the buck-toothed moron hasn't been in the news enough lately.

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