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Lawmakers grill Apple CEO Jobs on location information gathering

Key lawmakers want to know from Apple how it collects and uses information about the geography of iPhone and iPad users through location-based applications.

Reps. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas), co-chairman of the House Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, Thursday sent a letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs asking about recent press reports that the company has updated its privacy policies to alert users that it is collecting and using information about users' precise geographic location.

The Los Angeles times wrote first about the inclusion of location data in Apple's general privacy policy. The company declined to comment on the report but the company has been collecting location-based data of users since 2008 and it included a disclosure of the practice in its end user license agreements.

The lawmakers said they were concerned that users appeared to automatically be included in Apple's gathering of geographic data unless they actively opt out of having information collected about them.

“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 wrote in the letter.

Lawmakers and regulators have placed greater attention on location-based services, which are a goldmine of information for advertisers but have sparked concerns by privacy advocates.

Here are some of the questions Markey and Barton asked Jobs to answer by July 12:

1. Which specific Apple products are being used by Apple to collect geographic location data?
2. When did Apple begin collecting this location data, and how often is data collected from a given consumer?
3. Does Apple collect this location data from all consumers using Apple products? If the answer is no, please explain which consumers Apple is collecting information from and the reasons that these consumers were chosen for monitoring.
4. How many consumers are subject to this collection of location data?
5. 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?
6. Please explain in detail why Apple decided to begin collecting location data at this time, and how it intends to use the data.
7. Is Apple sharing consumer location information collected through iPhones and iPads with AT&T or other telecommunications carriers?
8. Who are the unspecified “partners and licensees” with which Apple shares this location data, and what are the terms and conditions of such information sharing? How does this comply with the requirements of Section 222 of the Communications Act, which mandates that no consumer location information be shared without the explicit prior consent of the consumer?
9. Does Apple believe that legal boilerplate in a general information policy, which the consumer must agree to in order to download applications or updates, is fully consistent with the intent of Section 222, and sufficient to inform the consumer that the consumer’s location may be disclosed to other parties? Has Apple or its legal counsel conducted an analysis of this issue? If yes, please provide a copy. If not, why not?

By Cecilia Kang  |  June 24, 2010; 9:42 AM ET
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Have these idiots even tried using an iDevice before wasting taxpayer time and money?

ANY AND EVERY app on the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad EXPLICITLY prompts you as to whether or not you want to grant the respective application permission to use your location.


"Location data on iOS is always explicitly opt-in. You, the user, must grant applications explicit permission to access location data — including Apple’s own system apps. This policy spells out what happens when you do grant this permission. Whenever location data is being accessed, you get an indicator in the status bar. And in Settings → General → Location Services you get a listing of every app with location privileges, the ability to turn it off, and an indicator for each app that has accessed your location within the last 24 hours."

Posted by: kelkelelle | June 24, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Hey Joe, why don't you go back to apologizing to BP for having to take responsibility for destroying the gulf so they'll pad your re-election campaign even more. You are the man that does not know what plate tectonics are and think that wind turbines cause global warming since they slow down the wind. Leave the adult stuff to the grown-ups.

Posted by: Brad75 | June 24, 2010 11:11 PM | Report abuse

Isn't socialism wonderful? Keep voting those liberals into office my fellow Americans so you can get of this. Maybe fine companies like Apple need to go Galt. Let the liberals try to hack Microsoft for money.

Posted by: jtrikakis | June 25, 2010 8:55 AM | Report abuse

And here I thought Joe Barton was too busy apologizing to BP for us getting our ocean in all their oil.

Posted by: cdaley25 | June 25, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

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