Apple’s secret tracking of iPhone and iPad users has drawn notice from Sen. Al Franken and other senators, heightening government suspicions of a mobile industry already under investigation for its privacy practices.
Franken, D-Minn., wrote a letter today to Apple CEO Steve Jobs asking how and why the company has been collecting time-stamped geo-location data with its iOS 4 platform over the last year. The senator wants to know why Apple never told consumers it was storing unencrypted data gathered from cell tower triangulation.
Two researchers revealed yesterday that Apple is recording its mobile device users’ movements. They said that the information collection was clearly intentional, but couldn’t tell what, if anything, the company was doing with the information.
“The existence of this information — stored in an unencrypted format — raises serious privacy concerns,” wrote Franken. “Anyone who gains access to this single file could likely determine the location of the user’s home, the businesses he frequents, the doctors he visits, the schools his children attend, and the trips he has taken — over the past months, or even a year.”
Franken is not alone in his concerns. Representative Edward Markely, D-Mass., has sent Jobs a similar letter and Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., reports being deeply disturbed that “current law fails to ensure consumers are protected from privacy violations.”
This latest development comes amid an ongoing federal investigation into how mobile apps handle users personal information, which was itself triggered by the discovery that data like a users’ location, age, and gender were being relayed to advertising companies.
Lawmakers recently proposed a bill that would require companies to get permission before distributing personal data to third-parties, like advertisers, and to let people know how much of their online data is public. But for now, Apple seems to be within its legal rights to collect location information from its iOS 4 users.