Congress to Apple: You Got Some Splainin to do

In a letter to the chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) expressed concerns regarding recent revelations that Apple products have been continuously tracking and recording user location information with questionable consent and without an easy way to opt out of such tracking.

In a letter to the chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) expressed concerns regarding recent revelations that Apple products have been continuously tracking and recording user location information with questionable consent and without an easy way to opt out of such tracking.

The letter, which can be found in a report from Cnet, is addressed to Chairman Jon Lieibowitz, and calls for a commission review on the nature of these tracking activities and the methods in which they are disclosed to customers.

Inslee claims that the purchase of an iPhone leads to the permanent tracking, recording, and unprotected storage of device location information with no clear means for a user to opt out. He contends that the America consumer deserves better treatment.

As it stands, Inslee writes, “Apple’s only apparent disclosure comes buried in the vaguely worded language of a lengthy terms and conditions agreement.”

On that note, Inslee expresses concern about the secrecy of these activities, of which iPhone users were unaware, he says, until two tech-savvy researchers discovered them. He argues that this alone proves there is a serious flaw in Apple’s disclosure practices (Apple shipped 34 million iPhones in the last two quarters alone according to their first and second quarter data summaries; of that number 2 people noticed and made public these tracking practices).

Specifically, Inslee asks the commission to investigate the size and scope of these activities, with special attention paid to the purpose of collecting such information, how long and to what extent this has been going on, the methods of obtaining consent, the mechanisms put in place to protect this data, and what tools are available to user’s to prevent themselves from being tracked.

Jay Inslee is just one member of Congress who is applying pressure on Apple. Ed Markey wrote letter to CEO and figurehead, Steve Jobs, suggesting the tracking of this nature may go against the Federal Communications Act. Also, Al Franken has called on Apple, and Google for that matter, to participate in a Judicial Subcommittee meeting on technology, privacy and the law.

According to the report from Cnet, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) also signed a letter demanding answers from Jobs earlier this week and has dropped hints that a House hearing is being worked out as well.

Adding to Apple’s precarious situation, two of the Cupertino company’s notroriously faithful customers have filed suit alleging that Apple is invading their privacy by collecting location data about iPhone and iPad users without their knowledge.

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