When researchers Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden announced at the Where 2.0 Conference in Santa Clara a few weeks ago that iPhones and 3G iPads are storing records of where their users are and where they’ve been, the news created quite a stir. Google also stores a similar list on Android devices, so naturally questions have swirled in the last few weeks around how both Apple and Google are collecting and using this location data and to what extent it encroaches on user privacy.
Yesterday, representatives from both companies were called before a senatorial subcommittee to answer questions from the likes of Senators Al Franken (Minn.) and Patrick Leahy (Vt.) on whether or not our mobile devices are becoming Big Brother 2.0.
During the testimony, the senators were careful to say that the government is well aware of the many benefits of the technology created by both companies and is in no way eager to stifle innovation or create knee-jerk legislation. That being said, in the words of Senator Leahy, while the “digital age can do some wonderful, wonderful things for all of us … American consumers and businesses face threats to privacy like no time before.”
Naturally, even without the information that has recently come to light, there has been a growing concern among lawmakers and consumers alike that both Google and Apple are not doing enough to become guardians of the user’s personal data rather than wholesalers. Leahy told the representatives that he was “deeply concerned” about the reports that iPhones and Android devices were “collecting, storing, and tracking user location data without the user’s consent”.
“I am also concerned about reports that this sensitive location information may be maintained in an unencrypted format, making the information vulnerable to cyber thieves and other criminals”, the Senator said.