Markey, Franken grill Apple on iPhone location tracking


(By Laura J. Gardner/Associated Press)

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) sent a letter to Jobs on Wednesday listing nine questions about the iPhone and iPad tracking and stating that “the existence of this information – stored in an unencrypted format – raises serious privacy concerns.”

Among Franken’s questions:

Why does Apple collect and compile this location data? Why did Apple choose to initiate tracking this data in its iOS 4 operating system?

Does Apple collect and compile this location data for laptops?

Does Apple believe that this conduct is permissible under the terms of its privacy policy?

To whom, if anyone, including Apple, has this data been disclosed? When and why were these disclosures made?

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), co-chairman of the House Bipartisan Privacy Caucus, followed with a letter to Jobs on Thursday in which he posed seven questions, to which he requested answers no later than May 12. Among Markey’s questions:

Did Apple intentionally develop this functionality in order to log the locations of users? If yes, why? If not, what is the purpose of this feature?

Is it possible for customers to disable this feature? If yes, how? If not, why not?

Given the widespread usage of iPhones and iPads by individuals under the age of 18, is Apple concerned that the wide array of precise location data logged by these devices can be used to track minors, exposing them to potential harm? If yes, what is Apple doing to reduce the potential for such harm? If not, why not?

On Wednesday, Alasdair Allan, a research fellow at the University of Exeter, and Pete Warden, a former Apple employee, announced that they had discovered the existence of a file on the iPhone and iPad 3G that keeps track of users’ location information. The two have also created an application that allows users to access the data themselves.

What are your thoughts? Does the location tracking raise serious privacy concerns? The comments section awaits.

Related links:

Tracking on the iPhone catches the Hill’s attention

Apple’s iPhone and iPad tracking: Where do you draw the line on privacy?

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