Franken Leads Hearing on Smartphone Users' Rights

By Erin Harrison May 11, 2011

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) led a hearing today to address privacy concerns affecting mobile phone users, calling on executives from Apple and Google, which have been under the microscope lately for potential privacy breaches.

Franken, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, led a discussion on whether smartphone users’ rights are being violated by mobility giants Apple and its iPhone and iPad, and Google, with the Android phone, and their location-based technology.

In his opening remarks, Franken focused on the goal of finding a balance between the conveniences of location-based services and the privacy vulnerabilities that come with them. Franken referenced the recent discovery that iPhones and iPads running Apple’s latest operating system were gathering information about users’ location-up to 100 times a day-and storing that information on the phone or tablet and copying it to every computer that the device is synced to.According to media reports, both iPhones and Android phones were automatically collecting certain location information from users’ phones and sending it back to Apple and Google-even when people weren’t using location applications, Franken said.

“These breaches of privacy can have real consequences for real people,” Franken said. “A Justice Department report based on 2006 data shows that each year, over 26,000 adults are stalked through the use of GPS devices, including GPS devices on mobile phones.”

Those figures are based from 2006 numbers, when there were a third as many smartphones as there are today, he said.

Those who will were appeared at Tuesday’s hearing include: Guy Tribble, Apple’s vice president of software technology; Alan Davidson, Google’s director of public policy in the Americas; Federal Communications Commission Deputy Director Jessica Rich; Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein and Justin Brookman, director of the Center for Democracy and Technology.

Erin Harrison is Executive Editor, Strategic Initiatives, for TMC, where she oversees the company's strategic editorial initiatives, including the launch of several new print and online initiatives. She plays an active role in the print publications and TechZone360, covering IP communications, information technology and other related topics. To read more of Erin's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves

Executive Editor, Strategic Initiatives

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