Lawmakers believe privacy laws should be applied to third-party developers, wireless carriers and mobile handset makers
Lawmakers investigated the collection, use, and storage of consumer location data from four U.S. wireless carriers, and determined that mobile privacy safeguards should also be applied to third-party app developers.
Mobile privacy has become a serious issue for some carriers that choose to use methods of tracking in order to target ads to consumers. For instance, Apple used a new feature on iOS 4 to capture location data on its a users through their iPhone or iPad. What’s more is that Apple stored this information in a local file, and when a user buys a new iPhone or iPad, this file is transferred to the new device.
In addition, other reports have found that Android-based phones are mining personal data as well, but are not storing it in a file.
With security problems like this at hand, lawmakers have requested information from Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc., T-Mobile and Sprint Nextel Corp. regarding their privacy practices, including the collection, use and storage of user location data.
Representatives Edward Markey and Joe Barton, co-chairs of the House Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, received letters from all four carriers on Thursday. After reviewing these letters, Markey and Barton agreed that third-party developers should also have to abide by mobile privacy safeguards.
“Third-party developers can access the location of customers at any time they want,” said Barton. “They shouldn’t have free reign over your location data and personally identifiable information.”
Markey noted that user privacy protection must be a priority for wireless carriers, application developers and mobile handset makers.
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller will hold a hearing on consumer privacy on May 10, where Google and Apple will be in attendance. While many hope that this sort of legislative attention will change privacy laws and make third-party developers abide by them, the outcome is uncertain at this point.