Google and Apple to testify before Congress on privacy issues

Google and Apple to testify before Congress on privacy issues

The two major American companies agreed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 10, a day after its Chairman, Patrick Leahy, shot off a letter to the CEOs of Apple and Google, encouraging them to consider the committee's invitation to appear.

"I am pleased that both Google and Apple have accepted the committee's invitation to testify about consumer privacy issues related to smartphones, tablets and other mobile technologies," Leahy said in a statement on Thursday.

"As the Congress works to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and other federal privacy laws, it is essential that policymakers and the American people have complete and accurate information about the privacy implications of these new technologies," Leahy said.

Google and Apple officials will be joining officials from the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission; Ashkan Soltani, independent privacy researcher and consultant; and Justin Brookman, Director of the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Project on Consumer Privacy.

"This hearing will serve as a first step in investigating if federal law protecting consumer privacy -- particularly when it relates to mobile devices like smartphones and tablets -- is keeping pace with advances in technology," said Senator Al Franken, the Chairman of the Judiciary Sub-Committee on Privacy, Technology and the Law.

Franken's hearing, called, "Protecting Mobile Privacy: Your Smartphones, Tablets, CellPhones and Your Privacy," is scheduled for May 10.

"Each of the witnesses at the hearing will play a critical role in helping us better understand this complex issue and I look forward to hearing from them," he said.

Last week, he sent a letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs asking him to address privacy concerns about the company's iOS 4 operating system, which security researchers have said secretly stores detailed information about users' locations on their iPhones, iPads and any computers to which the devices are synced, generally in an unencrypted format.

Since then, Apple, Inc. has announced that it will update its iOS 4 operating system to address several of the issues raised in Franken's letter.

Last year, Franken pressed Attorney General Holder to incorporate an analysis of geotags -- information about a person's location that is embedded in photos and videos taken with GPS-equipped smartphones -- into an updated stalking victimisation study connected to the National Crime Victimisation Survey.

This March, Senator Franken also led several of his Senate colleagues in urging Facebook to stop plans that would have permitted third party application providers to access users' home addresses and phone numbers.

Earlier this month, he asked the US Department of Justice to clarify its interpretation of a critical federal law that protects personal data after a security breach at Epsilon Data Management and allegations that several popular smartphone applications were gathering and disclosing users' private information without their knowledge or consent.