Washington lawmakers question Steve Jobs about Apple’s new privacy policy

Sun, Jun 27, 2010


The Washington Post reported last week that key lawmakers want to have a little fireside chat with Steve Jobs to discuss Apple’s new privacy policy regarding their use of customer geographic information via location-based apps.

Reps. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas), co-chairman of the House Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, Thursday sent a letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs asking about recent press reports that the company has updated its privacy policies to alert users that it is collecting and using information about users’ precise geographic location.

Markey and Barton explain that they are concerned that users may be “automatically included in Apple’s gathering of geographic data unless they actively opt out of having information collected about them.”

“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,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter to Steve Jobs.

Apple, though, makes it extremely easy to opt out of all location based data gathering in one fell swoop.

In any event, below are some of the questions the lawmakers want Steve Jobs to answer by July 12th.

1. Which specific Apple products are being used by Apple to collect geographic location data?
2. When did Apple begin collecting this location data, and how often is data collected from a given consumer?
3. Does Apple collect this location data from all consumers using Apple products? If the answer is no, please explain which consumers Apple is collecting information from and the reasons that these consumers were chosen for monitoring.
4. How many consumers are subject to this collection of location data?
5. What internal procedures are in place to ensure that any location data is stored “anonymously in a form that does not personally identify” individual consumers?
6. Please explain in detail why Apple decided to begin collecting location data at this time, and how it intends to use the data.
7. Is Apple sharing consumer location information collected through iPhones and iPads with AT&T or other telecommunications carriers?
8. Who are the unspecified “partners and licensees” with which Apple shares this location data, and what are the terms and conditions of such information sharing? How does this comply with the requirements of Section 222 of the Communications Act, which mandates that no consumer location information be shared without the explicit prior consent of the consumer?
9. Does Apple believe that legal boilerplate in a general information policy, which the consumer must agree to in order to download applications or updates, is fully consistent with the intent of Section 222, and sufficient to inform the consumer that the consumer’s location may be disclosed to other parties? Has Apple or its legal counsel conducted an analysis of this issue? If yes, please provide a copy. If not, why not



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