Congressman Calls on Apple to Explain iPhone Tracking

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.

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?”


Interestingly, Apple has already provided answers to many of those questions in a letter to Markey in July, 2010 (PDF). In that letter, written in response to an earlier inquiry about the company’s privacy policy and location based services, the Cupertino, California software firm explained the functioning of its tracking feature in detail and specifically addresses the handling of location data from minors. Among other things, Apple attested that it erases any information it can positively attribute to under age users of its products.

Suggested articles

Discussion

  • Anonymous on

    Reverse psychological tactic by Apple or just plain stupidity? The iPhone rapidly turning into the "mark of the beast"? What's up with Cellebrite UFED being able to strip cell phones of all data, even deleted, bypassing passwords and encryption on over 3,000 models of phones? What's up with SSD drives not being erased despite 35x overwrites? What's up with cell carriers recording our GPS locations 8 times a hour? Where can I buy a faraday carrying case for my phone?
  • Anonymous on

    How many government officials, including military personnel, are carrying IDevices and begin tracked?  Wonder how many laws DoD regulations that violates...

     

Subscribe to our newsletter, Threatpost Today!

Get the latest breaking news delivered daily to your inbox.