Recap of Apple and Google’s testimony before Senator Al Franken’s mobile privacy hearing

USA Today’s Mike Snider live-blogged Apple and Google’s testimony at the “Protecting Mobile Privacy: Your Smartphones, Tablets, Cell Phones and Your Privacy” hearing before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, chaired by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn.

10:05: Sen. Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy, D-Conn. commends subcommittee chairman Franken and says that “The digital age can do some wonderful things for all of us. … At the same time consumers face threats to privacy like at no time before.”

10:10 a.m. ET: Franken says that privacy concerns used to be focused on government misuse of personal data. “We still do have to protect ourselves from government abuses and that’s a big part of the digital privacy debate. But now we also have relationships with large corporations that are obtaining and storing increasingly large amounts of our information.”

10:11 a.m. ET: Franken says, “Don’t get me wrong. I love that I can use Google Maps, for free, no less and the same for the app on my iPad that tells me the weather.”

Full transcript here.


  1. Read the full transcript. Not impressed. Not clear to me that any positive steps will result from this activity. It is a very inefficient process for gathering useful information and making a decision on how to react appropriately.

  2. Pardon my ignorance (perhaps) … As I understand it, the location data are stored on MY phone; is there any real evidence that it is actually stored at Apple? Google?

    1. … following the law, that information is at least available from, at least, ATT or Verizon. With a warrant, one would hope. Part of the concern driving these hearings is that it might be available for sale to a third party – without a warrant. Not a problem for you?

      1. I’m just trying to clarify what is actually going on, what I should be concerned about. For one thing, I am very concerned about the idea that the government will protect us, I am more concerned about government (ab)use of such info. I believe the government is trying to deflect blame from themselves (the FCC dictated some of this nearly 10 years ago?). As you describe it, I have to wonder why is it Apple and Google being grilled, and NOT also ATT and Verizon? At the moment I am not really concerned, following the recent iOS update.

  3. I was struck by the irony of the discussion toward the end about apps which identify the locations of police checkpoints. What does that have to do with the privacy of my mobile data?

    1. Yeh really and isn’t DWI check points and red light and speed trap cameras the equivalent of end around illegal search and seizure? I thought as Americans we had a right yo be informed when we were being surveilled. Most if not all local municipalities use these thinly veiled traps as revenue enhancers any way. Public safety my ass. Then they freak out when taxes need to be raised to pay for cop overtime to man these checkpoints.

  4. I think the hearing is supposedly a warning shot, that Congress is watching. But really, it’s just for show, nobody in business pays much attention to this kind of thing. They will take certain legislators to lunch, discuss their campaign funding, and make some sort of arrangement.

  5. I see Microsoft shill, lawyer Jonathan Zuck is still sniffing around anything Apple hiding behind his “benign sounding” organization “Association for Competitive Technology”.

  6. This hearing is a basically a warning to Apple, Google and the mobile industry that they had better take some steps to ensure location and private data remains private or the federal government may take those steps for them. It’s also a warning that a new privacy law is likely coming (so the companies had better get their checkbooks ready for the lobbyists to start wooing the elected officials).

  7. Al Franken: “Look everybody! I have an enormous penis!!”

    Basically, this session was a circle jerk and so much political grandstanding. Franken is becoming another Charles Schumer, in that the most dangerous place on earth is the small space between Franken or Schumer and the lens of a news TV camera.

    By the time Apple and Google testified, they had already addressed any issues that dragged them before this inquisition. Meanwhile, amid the hand-wringing of politicians and pundits about privacy and tracking, millions of people gleefully note their location on FourSquare and Facebook, and share the private lives on Facebook for all the world to see, while the ever Teflon-coated Mark Zuckerberg continues to vacuum up all this information and sell it to the highest bidder.

    Am I the only person to note this contradiction? I hope not.

  8. Yea, yea, yea.

    As I recall, several years ago there was a requirement that cell phones (and by extension smart phones) be able to know where they are for emergencies. It wouldnt do any good to call 911 in Dallas and be connected to 911 in Atlanta because I have an Atlanta area code, for example. What will happen if someone’s 12 year old calls 911 and they can’t locate her because location services are turned off?

  9. Much of the information technology being used by consumers today has been funded and/or overseen by the Fed since the beginning. I think it’s a lot more than simple coincidence that Apple and Google get sent to the principal’s office at the same time we hear of the Fed’s need to invade our personal communication devices with information-trafficking chips, (excuse me, I mean Federal IM chips). (It almost sounds like we’ll all have our own virtual “Red” phones, remember those, the phone that gives you direct access to the President? Looked good in the movies, didn’t it?)

    This is how I see it: I think all cellular technology has been one big beta test leading to this Federal chip… and of course it’s all pushed on us (without vote or any kind of due process) cloaked in the language of security. I think that as soon as Apple and Google got put on the spot they both called those in the Fed that have been overseeing the big beta test, to make sure they [Fed] understand that they’re [Apple, Google, et. al.] not going to take the fall alone. So, the Fed decides to daze and confuse us by choosing this moment to release the, oh-by-the-way, that all hand held devices will now be loaded with this already proverbial chip – a chip which is probably already in there – being beta tested by you and me. The cost of mobile communication and data exchange is getting really expensive – don’t you think?

    The reality check will be, and already has been, that we cannot make anything absolutely secure. I think we suddenly find ourselves in a tight and vicious circle – A terrorist act happens and the Feds answer is to make the American people pay for it. We have to be willing to live with reasonable risks in order to preserve basic individual rights. Of course defining what risks are reasonable is subjective, I just don’t agree with the way the Fed has unilaterally usurped that process.

    As a tax-paying American citizen I really want to see some balance permeate this national security thing. In the meantime, others are succeeding in changing the nature of who we are, as a nation, by using fear. And as we begin to fear one another we begin to let fear dictate our decisions. We are decidedly out of balance.

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