Representatives of Google (News - Alert) and Apple found themselves on the hot seat Tuesday as U.S. Senators questioned them about privacy issues related to smartphone use.
The officials were grilled on how the companies use location data gathered from smartphones, according to a report from Bloomberg News.
“Consumers have a fundamental right to know what data is being collected about them,” U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law, said as the hearing got underway.
“They have a right to decide whether they want to share that information, and with whom they want to share it and when. And yet reports suggest that the information on our mobile devices is not being protected in the way that it should be. And I think we have those rights for all of our personal information," Franken added in a statement.
During his testimony, Guy L. "Bud" Tribble, Apple (News - Alert) vice president of Software Technology, said user privacy is a top priority for his company, according to a report from Apple Insider.
“Apple is deeply committed to protecting the privacy of our customers,” Tribble said. “Apple does not track users’ locations – Apple has never done so and has no plans to do so.”
In addition, Apple does not share “personally identifiable information for their marketing purposes without our customers’ explicit consent,” Tribble said.
In addition, location-based services offer benefits to customers and make it more convenient for them in such user activities as shopping and travel, Tribble said.
Bloomberg News also reported that Alan Davidson (News - Alert), Google’s director of public policy, said external developers of apps for Android need to take responsibility for how software “collects and handles user data and the privacy disclosures.”
“Google does not 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, even though Google strongly encourages application developers to use best practices,” Davidson testified.
At the close of the hearing, Franken said he had “serious doubts” that user rights “are being respected in law or in practice.”
“Mobile devices are only going to become more and more popular; they’ll soon be the predominant way people access the Internet. So this is an urgent issue we’re dealing with,” he added.
Franken and other legislators may push for new laws to restrict companies’ use of confidential data, according to TMCnet.Ed Silverstein is a TMCnet contributor. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Rich Steeves