US lawmakers query Apple, Alphabet CEOs over smartphone personal data policies

Posted:
in General Discussion edited July 9
U.S. lawmakers have sent a request to the chief executives of Apple and Alphabet about how the personal data of their customers is handled on iPhones and Android smartphones, seemingly in an expansion of the government's privacy investigation following Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal.




The letters, sent to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet CEO Larry Page, were written due to an increase in media reports about privacy issues, reports the Wall Street Journal. The reports, as well as other information provided to the lawmakers, have apparently raised questions about the privacy practices of both companies.

One of the concerns is how location data could be collected and misused by firms, which could potentially be used to track users without their consent. The letter to Page includes references to reports claiming Android collects user location data and sends it back to Alphabet's Google, even if users disabled the device's location services beforehand.

The letter to Cook reportedly raises fewer issues, but still queried if iPhones collect and transmit "extensive location data." Cook's previous statements and Apple's actions also "raise questions about how Apple device users' data is protected and when it is shared and compiled."

Aside from location data, the letters also want to know about collecting audio data from user conversations, and sharing that data with third parties.

The letters were signed by Chairman Greg Walden (R, OR) and subcommittee chairmen Gregg Harper (R, MS,) Marsha Blackburn (R., TN,) and Robert Latta (R., OH.)

Cook and Apple's stance on privacy is that it is not "in the data business," in that it doesn't collect data on its customers to provide to other firms, such as advertisers. In March, Cook insisted Apple doesn't monetize its customers, unlike firms that offer free services, and that the use of consumer data should be dialed back.

The request follows in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica affair, where a now-defunct political consulting firm created approximately 71 million U.S. voter profiles based on data it had harvested from Facebook without user consent in 2015. Facebook accused Analytica of violating policies, while researchers who created the quiz app behind the affair claimed that, not only did they do nothing wrong, but they were not the only party to collect data in that way.

It is believed the data was used to provide advice to political campaigns for manipulating voter opinion, potentially affecting the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.

A U.S. federal probe is underway, with the FBI, the Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Securities and Exchange Commission thought to be taking part in the investigation.

In June, it was claimed by Facebook that it had data-sharing partnerships with a number of firms, including Apple, which granted third-party access to user data before the social network made apps available for mobile devices. In response, Cook told an audience at WWDC that Apple neither requested nor received users' personal data from Facebook.

Lawmakers have questioned Apple's policies regarding privacy in the past, asking in 2017 about Apple's dealings with China over concerns it was complicit in assisting China's censorship-based regime. Answers from the company noted it adheres to laws in countries it does business within, and in relation to promoting freedom of expression and privacy rights, Apple's presence throughout the world is "the most effective way it can make a difference" in such countries.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 12
    metrixmetrix Posts: 204member
    It certainly seems Apple is doing everything to ensure privacy for its customers in spite of government pressure to seek information without warrant 
    Muntzredgeminipajony0
  • Reply 2 of 12
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 29,344member
    Nothing political to discuss here... move along... move along!  ;)
    edited July 9
  • Reply 3 of 12
    LatkoLatko Posts: 93member
    metrix said:
    It certainly seems Apple is doing everything to ensure privacy for its customers in spite of government pressure to seek information without warrant 
    They aren’t. Privacy breach will happen if profiled data gets sold on anonymous basis, but smart algorithms are able to re-assemble your identity from multiple sources’ records.
    In that case, all parties fullfil their legal duties but still customer privacy is compromised and nobody to be held accountable...
    Currently, Apple facilitates this.
    For Apple to fullfil its claims it should get itself out of this cycle and categorically stop selling data - whether anonymized or not
    edited July 9 cornchip
  • Reply 4 of 12
    nunzynunzy Posts: 409member
    They always seem to pick on Apple.
  • Reply 5 of 12
    macseekermacseeker Posts: 365member
    If done right, Apple could turn this into a great ad campaign for Apple's iOS devices.
    edited July 9 Muntz
  • Reply 6 of 12
    pujones1pujones1 Posts: 135member
    I totally agree with Nunzy and Macseeker. I feel much safer with Apple than I do with any other service. I'm not a Googler and I stay away from other social apps like Facebook, Instagram and free services like Spotify, Gmail, Pandora etc etc. If someone truly wants your info they will get it. There have been too many breaches like Target and greatest of all Equifax. No one that I can recall was arrested for Equifax btw. Now I get several phishing emails and spam calls so I know some stuff is out there already. Sure you can aggregate as much data as possible to profile someone but I feel somewhat better with Apple because I'm not the product. I spend LOTS OF MONEY on the products. Maybe they will try to enact some policy inspired by the way Apple tries to protect our data.
    Muntzmacseekernunzyredgeminipa
  • Reply 7 of 12
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,431member
    Latko said:
    metrix said:
    It certainly seems Apple is doing everything to ensure privacy for its customers in spite of government pressure to seek information without warrant 
    They aren’t. Privacy breach will happen if profiled data gets sold on anonymous basis, but smart algorithms are able to re-assemble your identity from multiple sources’ records.
    In that case, all parties fullfil their legal duties but still customer privacy is compromised and nobody to be held accountable...
    Currently, Apple facilitates this.
    For Apple to fullfil its claims it should get itself out of this cycle and categorically stop selling data - whether anonymized or not
    Where do you get the notion that Apple sells any data?
    tmaycornchipredgeminipaicoco3jony0
  • Reply 8 of 12
    macxpress said:
    Latko said:
    metrix said:
    It certainly seems Apple is doing everything to ensure privacy for its customers in spite of government pressure to seek information without warrant 
    They aren’t. Privacy breach will happen if profiled data gets sold on anonymous basis, but smart algorithms are able to re-assemble your identity from multiple sources’ records.
    In that case, all parties fullfil their legal duties but still customer privacy is compromised and nobody to be held accountable...
    Currently, Apple facilitates this.
    For Apple to fullfil its claims it should get itself out of this cycle and categorically stop selling data - whether anonymized or not
    Where do you get the notion that Apple sells any data?
    Ehhh. Latko is just blowing smoke. Apple does not sell data. If they did, there would be an undercover story on how any data purchased from Apple could be used to identify the end user. 
    tmaycornchipredgeminipaRayz2016jony0
  • Reply 9 of 12
    rob53rob53 Posts: 1,879member
    Latko said:
    metrix said:
    It certainly seems Apple is doing everything to ensure privacy for its customers in spite of government pressure to seek information without warrant 
    They aren’t. Privacy breach will happen if profiled data gets sold on anonymous basis, but smart algorithms are able to re-assemble your identity from multiple sources’ records.
    In that case, all parties fullfil their legal duties but still customer privacy is compromised and nobody to be held accountable...
    Currently, Apple facilitates this.
    For Apple to fullfil its claims it should get itself out of this cycle and categorically stop selling data - whether anonymized or not
    Please document what profiled data on Apple servers has been lost. I'm not talking about the phishing attacks that got a few entertainers information, I'm talking about large scale breaches that seem to happen all the time to other companies. I want real, documented information, not speculation.

    I'd also like to know how Apple facilitates any of this. Apple captures some data for internal use (approved location data for Maps, etc.) but I haven't heard any legitimate news about them selling any data, at least not in the last 20 years.

    I also see you used the big "if" in your first sentence, twisting your comment to mean Apple is involved in a speculated privacy breach but, again, I'd like to hear some real information to support your comments.
    redgeminipajony0
  • Reply 10 of 12
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 860member
    rob53 said:
    Latko said:
    metrix said:
    It certainly seems Apple is doing everything to ensure privacy for its customers in spite of government pressure to seek information without warrant 
    They aren’t. Privacy breach will happen if profiled data gets sold on anonymous basis, but smart algorithms are able to re-assemble your identity from multiple sources’ records.
    In that case, all parties fullfil their legal duties but still customer privacy is compromised and nobody to be held accountable...
    Currently, Apple facilitates this.
    For Apple to fullfil its claims it should get itself out of this cycle and categorically stop selling data - whether anonymized or not
      I'm not talking about the phishing attacks that got a few entertainers
    .... that had incredibly bad password policies.
  • Reply 11 of 12
    zonezone Posts: 53member
    Fortress USA wants to know what you're doing at all times. Protect us from a non-existent threat of the boogeyman to the tune of Billions of dollars. More people die from slipping in the bath tube so with that in mind lets install a camera in everyone bathtub so they can be safer. Who cares about their privacy right? We have the right to privacy and should not give it away. Apple is fighting the good fight and needs to keep doing this for its customers. This is one of the most important things Apple is doing right now and it almost gets no play or support.
    tallest skilredgeminipa
  • Reply 12 of 12
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,234member
    zone said:
    This is one of the most important things Apple is doing right now and it almost gets no play or support.
    Personal privacy’s out of vogue, particularly in the media (which is legally allowed to propagandize citizens again). Besides, that whole “constitution” thing is old hat, right?
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