Google, Apple Grilled on Mobile Privacy at US Senate Hearing

Executives from Apple, Google, and other prominent tech and mobile companies turned up on Capitol Hill Tuesday to answer questions from US lawmakers at a hearing scheduled by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law.

In recent months, Congress has ramped up efforts to crack down on potential mobile privacy and security threats born of the location tracking attributes of popular mobile operating systems, like Apple’s iOS.

“I am sorry that not everyone was able to get into the room,” Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn) said at the onset of the hearing.

A packed house was on hand for Apple vice president for software technology Bud Tribble’s testimony.

“Apple is deeply committed to protecting the privacy of our customers,” said Tribble. “Apple does not track users’ locations — Apple has never done so and has no plans to do so.”

Tribble’s reassuring comments followed a strong opening statement by Senator Franken, who made clear what the hearing had intended to accomplish.

“Consumers have a fundamental right to know what data is being collected about them,” Franken said. “They have a right to decide whether they want to share that information, and with whom they want to share it and when. And yet reports suggest that the information on our mobile devices is not being protected in the way that it should be.”

Alan Davidson, Google’s director of public policy, provided written testimony prepared ahead of today’s hearing.

“Google recognizes the particular privacy concerns that come with the collection and storage of location information,” Davidson stated. “That’s why we don’t collect any location information — any at all — through our location services on Android devices unless the user specifically chooses to share this information with Google.”