Two self-styled privacy hawks in Congress have turned their attention toward Apple, asking the company for answers about how it is collecting and using information about its users’ geographical location.
“It is our understanding that Apple’s consumers cannot use newly purchased iPads, iPhones, Apple computers, or purchase products for existing Apple products from the iTunes music store unless they accept the revised terms and conditions and include agreeing to the collection and sharing of geographical location data,” the congressmen wrote.
“Given the limited ability of Apple users to opt out of the revised policy and still be able to take advantage of the features of their Apple products, we are concerned about the impact the collection of such data could have on the privacy of Apple’s customers.”
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter.
Markey and Barton co-chair the House Bipartisan Privacy Caucus, and most recently set their sights on Google’s inadvertent collection of Wi-Fi data through its Street View project. First, they called on Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz to open an investigation. Then, a week later, they sent a letter of inquiry to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, asking for answers about the Wi-Fi snafu in much the same way as they are now soliciting comments from Apple’s Jobs.
In their letter, Markey and Barton asked about the extent of Apple’s collection of location-based data, how long the company has been gathering the information and what safeguards it has in place to ensure that the data remain anonymous.
They also asked for information about the unnamed “partners and licensees” with whom Apple said it shares location-based information, pointedly challenging the company to defend its position in the face of a provision of federal law — Section 222 of the Communications Act — that bars firms from sharing information about a consumer’s location with securing explicit prior consent.
They are requesting a response from Apple by July 12.