Executives from Apple and Google testified before a Senate subcommittee today (May 10), defending their privacy practices regarding how they track and collect the data of their smartphone users.
In his opening remarks of the first meeting of his Privacy, Technology and Law Subcommittee, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said the tidal change in smartphone communication — and how communication providers treat consumers' digital data — has created a need for updated, modernized regulations and oversight to ensure people's privacy is not exploited.
"We're beginning to change the way we think about privacy to account for this massive shift of our personal information into the hands of the privacy sector because the Fourth Amendment doesn't apply to corporations; the Freedom of Information Act doesn't apply to Silicon Valley," Franken said.
Guy Tribble, Apple's vice president for software technology, assured Franken his company is "deeply committed to protecting the privacy of our customers," Bloomberg News reported.
"Apple does not track users' locations – Apple has never done so and has no plans to do so," Tribble added.
Alan Davidson, Google's director of public policy, echoed Tribble, telling the lawmakers that Google collects location data from its Android customers only when permission is explicitly given.
These, however, are not new answers.
On April 27, in response to a letter Franken wrote to Apple CEO Steve Jobs, Apple explained that the iPhone "is not logging your location," and anonymously tracks users' locations only to maintain a database of Wi-Fi hot spots.
Franken stressed the need for Google and Apple to begin coordinating with app developers to make sure the developers are "clearer with consumers about the data that they collect, how long it's retained and how it's used," Dennis Fisher from the security firm Kaspersky Lab wrote.
But when Franken pressed Google about whether or not it would require app developers to institute new privacy policies, Davidson was less than forthright.
"At Google, we tried to maximize the openness of the platform," Davidson said. "We will take that issue back to our leadership. It's a good suggestion to think about."