The Circuit: Privacy, merger hearings this week; kids’ mobile privacy; Google, Skyhook suit

LEADING THE DAY: A pair of major hearings this week will set the tone for two of the leading tech conversations on the Hill. On Wednesday, the chief executives of AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint will all speak on the proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile. The hearing will examine the antitrust implications of the proposed deal, which would join the country’s second- and fourth-largest wireless providers. Sprint has come out strongly against the deal, led by CEO Dan Hesse and lead lobbyist Vonya McCann, arguing that the merger will hurt competition. Analysts say Sprint is in a vulnerable position if the merger goes through.

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary privacy subcommittee will hear testimony from Apple and Google on the companies’ mobile privacy policies. The hearing follows outcry over how the companies collect and store users’ location data, an issue that came to light after two researchers discovered a file on the iPhone that appeared to track smartphone owners.

Apple has since made changes to the way the file, a chunk of a larger location database that did not track users, is stored on customers’ phones and computers.

Kids’ mobile privacy: Teens are largely unprotected when it comes to mobile privacy, The Washington Post reported. While there are laws that protect children under the age of 12, those ages 13 to 18 are poorly protected by existing laws and are among the most voracious users of online services. Teens often do not consider the implications of sharing their data and agree to the privacy conditions set by apps without reading them.

“It’s the Wild West for teens when it comes to privacy online,” said Kathryn Montgomery, a privacy advocate and communications professor at American University.

Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Tex.) announced last week that they will introduce a bill that will limit online marketing to teens and place limits on how their personal information is collected.

Google suit: E-mails released by a Massachusetts court last week show that Google is wrestling with how to maintain control over its open-source technology, the New York Times reported. Last Friday, Boston-based geo-location company Skyhook won the right to move ahead with its suit claiming that Google used its influence to pressure companies into using Google’s map technology. The e-mails show the difficulties Google faces as it provides an operating system that supports competitors’ hardware and software.

The suit comes as Google faces scrutiny from the FTC and the Justice Department over antitrust concerns, highlighting a turf war between the two agencies. The Washington Post’s Steve Pearlstein wrote that the agencies should concentrate on what’s best for consumers rather than their long-standing rivalry. The FTC should concentrate on merger review and the Justice Department should focus on monopolistic behavior and price fixing, Pearlstein suggested..

Sony delays relaunch: Sony announced on Friday that it would be pushing back the scheduled relaunch of its PlayStation Network, originally slated for last week. The network was affected by a massive data breach attack and has been down since late last month.

The company said that when it set its original deadline to relaunch the service, it did not know the full extent of the attack. It has not set a new deadline for service relaunch.

Tech visas dropping: Applications for HB-1 tech visas from foreign workers looking for jobs at U.S. companies has dropped, the Wall Street Journal reported. The program has had about 50 percent fewer applications this year as compared with last year, despite the recovering U.S. economy. Workers from places such as India are now finding they have better opportunities in their native countries than they do in the United States.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.

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