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Apple, Facebook, Google appear at Senate privacy hearing

updated 04:50 pm EDT, Thu May 19, 2011

Apple, Google stick to company lines

Apple and Google today made a repeat appearance in front of the US Senate, newly joined by Facebook, for a subcommittee on mobile privacy. The corporations largely stuck to earlier positions in defense of their actions. "Apple does not track users' locations -- Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so," said Apple's VP of government affairs, Catherine Novelli. Criticisms of the company have circled around a cache of Wi-Fi and celltower locations, which until an iOS patch was released extended almost a year back.

Google's director of public policy for the Americas, Alan Davidson, reiterated the a view that location sharing in Android "is strictly opt-in for our users, with clear notice and control." The company maintains a more hands-off approach to apps versus Apple, which requires every app to be sold through the App Store and approved according to strict rules.

"Google does not and cannot control the behavior of third-party applications, or how they handle location information and other user information that the third-party application obtains from the device," said Davidson. "Google does strongly encourage application developers to use best practices." Developers are urged to provide a set privacy policy, avoid logging, and present options for data control.

"I think anyone who uses a mobile device has an expectation of privacy, and sadly that expectation is not always being met," commented Sen. John Rockefeller IV at one point during the hearing. Topics during the hearing included the concept of "do not track" lists, and Sen. Mark Pryor asked whether or not geotracking can ever be "legitimate." Rockefeller later commented that apps are "totally unregulated," something he wants fixed.

by MacNN Staff





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