Congress stepped into the brewing controversy over a recently disclosed tracking feature in most versions of Apple’s popular iPhone. Representative Ed Markey (D-Mass) has written a letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs asking for more information about the feature (PDF), suggesting that it may run afoul of the Federal Communications Act.
In a statement, Markey’s office said that Markey, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and co-Chairman of the House Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, expressed concern that iPhones running Apple’s iOS 4 operating system “collects customers’ location data, stores it on the user’s iPhone and iPad, backs it up when synced with another device, and could leave it unprotected.” That behavior may violate Section 222 of the Communications Act, a provision that Rep. Markey authored, the statement notes.
Section 222 requires companies to get express authorization from their customers for the use, disclosure or access to location information for commercial purposes.
“Apple needs to safeguard the personal location information of its users to ensure that an iPhone doesn’t become an iTrack,” said Rep. Markey. “Collecting, storing and disclosing a consumer’s location for commercial purposes without their express permission is unacceptable and would violate current law.”
Markey asked for responses from Apple about the feature: verifying that it exists, why it was developed, how it collects the customer information, and whether users can disable it. Markey also expressed concern that the feature could be used to track minors who own cell phones.
“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?”