The location-based practices of Apple, Google and others still have lawmakers seeking answers. The FTC and FCC will hold a public forum on the matter June 28.
Details of the
location-tracking practices of the Apple iPhone and Android-running devices
still aren't sitting well with federal regulators, who have scheduled a June 28
public education forum on the topic to learn a bit more and to help educate
In a May 17 statement
, the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal
Communications Commission's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau announced the
forum, which will include representatives from wireless carriers, technology
companies, consumer-advocacy groups and academia, and will explore topics
including how LBSes (location based services) work; the benefits and risks of
LBSes; consumer do's and don'ts; industry best practices; and what parents
should know about location tracking when their children use mobile devices.
technology is used for purposes such as enabling emergency services to track
calls to 911, to offer driving directions or to look up price comparisons for
nearby stores. However in April, two researchers discovered that the iPhone had
kept nearly a year's worth of unencrypted information on its whereabouts,
starting a ball rolling that has yet to stop or slow. Lawmakers have sent
letters to Apple and other manufacturers seeking answers, lawsuits have been
filed by consumers and a Senate subcommittee hearing
has taken place, with
lawmakers questioning whether consumer-protecting legislation is keeping pace
taken pains to explain that it doesn't track iPhone users, but rather it
populates a database of area WiFi and cellular towers-some of which might be as
far as 100 miles away-so that location-data requests could be served up without
delay. That the devices often continued to log location data about users even
after the Location Services feature was turned off-and that quite so much data
was stored, when just a week's worth would do-Apple blamed on software bugs.
In an April 27
statement, Apple explained
that it would soon release an iOS
software update-which it has-to reduce the size of the database cache stored on
an iPhone and to delete the cache when Locations Services was turned off. The
next major release of iOS, it added, will additionally encrypt the cache on the
During a May
10 Senate subcommittee hearing, Guy "Bud" Tribble, Apple's vice
president for software technology, reiterated that Apple wasn't tracking users,
while Alan Davidson, Google's director of public policy, emphasized the
importance of users' trust to Google's business model.
fail to offer clear, usable privacy controls, transparency in our privacy
practices and strong security," Davidson said in his written testimony,
"our users will simply switch to another provider."
Franken (D-Minn.), who hosted the hearing, said that no one was trying to stop
Google or Apple from doing what they do, but to "find the balance between
all of the wonderful things [they do] and consumers' privacy." In their
statement regarding the forum, the FTC and FCC likewise emphasized that while
innovations in the use of LBS technologies extend new perks and possibilities
to consumers, as well as being a boon to the economy, recent reports have
FCC's National Broadband Plan recognizes that consumer apprehension about
privacy can also act as a barrier to the adoption and utilization of broadband
and mobile devices," the statement continued. "Clear information and
public education can help consumers better understand these services."
The forum will
run 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET, and the public is encouraged to file comments using
the ECFS (Electronic Comment Filing System) or by filing paper copies. For
instructions on filing an electronic comment, interested parties should email firstname.lastname@example.org
with "Get Form" in the body of the message, for further instructions.