Feeds

US lawmakers grill Apple on location tracking changes

'Dear Mr. Jobs'

Boost IT visibility and business value

US lawmakers are grilling Steve Jobs over recent tweaks to Apple's privacy policy allowing the company and its partners to collect and share "precise location data" of all iTunes and App Store customers.

US Representatives Edward J. Markey and Joe Barton, the co-chairs of the House Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, sent a letter to the Apple CEO on Thursday, a few days after the updated privacy policy was reported. In it, they called on Jobs to explain how the new terms don't run afoul of Section 222 of the Federal Communications Act (PDF), which prohibits the sharing of customer location information without the permission of the user.

"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," they wrote (PDF). "Given the limited ability of Apple users to opt out of the revised policy and still be able to take advantage of the features of their Apple products, we are concerned about the impact the collection of such data could have on the privacy of Apple's customers."

The lawmakers peppered Jobs with nine questions, including the following:

  • What internal procedures are in place to ensure that any location data is stored "anonymously in a form that does not personally identify" individual consumers?
  • Please explain in detail why Apple decided to begin collecting location data at this time, and how it intends to use the data.

They're good questions, to be sure, but the list is notable for the obvious question that was left out: How long will Apple and its partners hold on to information about the exact whereabouts of so many people?

The precise language of the update Apple's privacy policy reads:

To provide location-based services on Apple products, Apple and our partners and licensees may collect, use, and share precise location data, including the real-time geographic location of your Apple computer or device. This location data is collected anonymously in a form that does not personally identify you and is used by Apple and our partners and licensees to provide and improve location-based products and services. For example, we may share geographic location with application providers when you opt in to their location services.

Some location-based services offered by Apple, such as the MobileMe "Find My iPhone" feature, require your personal information for the feature to work.

Yes, Apple makes it easy to turn off location tracking, but to do so makes key offerings of Apple devices unavailable.

The letter "respectfully" requests a response by July 12 — and it will be interesting to see if the perpetually taciturn Apple will be any more forthcoming with Representatives Markey and Barton than it has been over the past week with customers and reporters seeking the specifics of the policy. ®

Bootnote

If the name "Joe Barton" rings a bell, it may be because this relatively obscure east-Texas congressman has been in the news recently for apologizing to BP CEO Tony Hayward for the "$20 billion shakedown" that the beleaguered oilman suffered at the hands of President Obama.

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Munich considers dumping Linux for ... GULP ... Windows!
Give a penguinista a hug, the Outlook's not good for open source's poster child
Yes, but what are your plans if a DRAGON attacks?
Local UK gov outs most ridiculous FoI requests...
Detroit losing MILLIONS because it buys CHEAP BATTERIES – report
Man at hardware store was right: name brands DO last longer
e-Borders fiasco: Brits stung for £224m after US IT giant sues UK govt
Defeat to Raytheon branded 'catastrophic result'
Govt control? Hah! It's IMPOSSIBLE to have a successful command economy
Even Moore's Law can't help the architects of statism now
Snowden on NSA's MonsterMind TERROR: It may trigger cyberwar
Plus: Syria's internet going down? That was a US cock-up
This'll end well: US govt says car-to-car jibber-jabber will SAVE lives
Department of Transportation starts cogs turning for another wireless comms standard
UK fuzz want PINCODES on ALL mobile phones
Met Police calls for mandatory passwords on all new mobes
New voting rules leave innocent Brits at risk of SPAM TSUNAMI
Read the paperwork very carefully - or fall victim to marketing shysters
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.