After a bruising series of revelations about location tracking features on mobile devices running their operating systems, Apple and Google will send executives to Capitol Hill to talk to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law about cell phone privacy.
Guy L. “Bud” Tribble, Apple’s vice president of software technology, will be sitting in on the group’s first hearing, “Protecting Mobile Privacy: Your Smartphones, Tablets, Cell Phones and Your Privacy.” Joining Tribble to testify in the hearing’s second panel is Google’s director of public policy Alan Davidson and the Project on Consumer Privacy’s director Justin Brookman. The hearing stems from a feature on Apple’s iOS 4 devices that was found to have tracked users’ whereabouts.
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn) will conduct the hearing, scheduled to be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday in D.C. It is just the latest congressional inquiry into user privacy on mobile phones. Franken, who joined the fledgling subcommittee in February as chairman, sent a letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs in April, questioning the tracking methods of his company’s iPhone.
After complaints about the location tracking on iPhones, Apple said the feature was intended to track WiFi hotspots and towers, not the movements of its customers. However, the company admitted that errors in its own code caused iPhones to store too much location data and to continue tracking locations even after users disabled the location tracking feature.
Apple subsequently patched the location tracking feature in an update to iOS 4 update last week. However, questions about Apple and Google’s smart phone tracking mechanisms still linger.