Mobile Technology Privacy Hearing Calls Apple, Google Before Senate

Apr 26, 2011, 15:10 by John Steele

Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota) has called upon Apple and Google to participate in a hearing with the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law in order to discuss consumer privacy, Wired Magazine reported Tuesday.

"Recent advances in mobile technology have allowed Americans to stay connected like never before and put an astonishing number of resources at our fingertips," Franken said in a statement. "But the same technology that has given us smartphones, tablets and cell phones has also allowed these devices to gather extremely sensitive information about users, including detailed records of their daily movements and location."

"This hearing is the first step in making certain that federal laws protecting consumers' privacy--particularly when it comes to mobile devices--keep pace with advances in technology," Franken concluded.

The subcommittee comes after Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden, two researchers at O'Reilly Media, discovered that Apple was tracking users of its OS 4 operating system without their consent. While Apple claims they are not doing anything sinister with the information, the company is now being sued by two Florida customers.

Franken was the first to fire off a letter to Apple and his outrage caused him to convene the panel.

Google is far from innocent in the world of online tracking and data collection. The company settled out of court earlier this year when French authorities caught Google employees accessing private data networks while collecting images for Google Maps.

According to AFP, the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent letters to Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Research in Motion, and Hewlett-Packard asking whether their devices are tracking, storing, and sharing users' locations.

Neither Apple nor Google have publicly acknowledged Franken's call for a hearing just yet.