“The revelation last month that Apple’s iPhones collected location data and stored it for up to a year — even when location software was supposedly turned off — has prompted renewed scrutiny of the nexus between location and privacy,” Diane Bartz reports for Reuters. “On Tuesday, senior Apple and Google executives will submit to questions from a congressional panel on how location-tracking may violate users’ rights.”

Bartz reports, “Smartphone and advertising companies argue that they use data on what users like (which they know because users use the phone to check prices); where they are (which they know because of contact with cell phone towers); and who their friends are (which they know from social media like Facebook) to give their customers ads for products they are most likely to buy. ‘There are terrific things about mobility. There’s a lot of good stuff that can come out of this,’ said Joseph Turow, who follows marketing for the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication.”

“But the discomfort comes with the failure of companies — ranging from smartphone makers, to app makers, to advertisers — to disclose to customers what information they are collecting and what they will do with it, said a staffer for Democratic Senator Al Franken, chairman of the online privacy subcommittee that will hold Tuesday’s hearing,” Bartz reports. “Witnesses will include Google and Apple executives, as well as Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department officials.”

“Tuesday’s inquiry remains just that: lawmakers seeking more information on the technology and its potential uses. But the risk is, if public concern snowballs into consumer outrage, that lawmakers may eventually pass laws restricting such activity” Bartz reports. “Already three online privacy bills have been introduced — by Representatives Bobby Rush and Jackie Speier and by Senators John McCain and John Kerry. It’s far too early to tell which, if any, of them might become law… Franken has not yet decided what he would like to see in a bill, his staffers say.”

Read more in the full article here.

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