Franken: Apple, Google Testifying at Senate Privacy Hearing

U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-MN) issued a statement on Thursday confirming Apple and Google will both be present at a special hearing he called to look into mobile device tracking and privacy. Senator Franken scheduled the Senate hearing after word surfaced that the iPhone maintains a location database that’s copied to users computers during syncing.

Senator Al FrankenSenator Franken to question Apple on iPhone privacy

Apple found itself the target of negative press when security researchers released an application that accessed an iPhone backup file loaded with location data and displayed the content on a map. In some cases, nearly a year’s worth of data was available, and unless users explicitly encrypted their iPhone backup files, the information was open to anyone with access to their computer.

Senator Franken, Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, responded by sending a letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs asking for details on what Apple is tracking, and how that data is being used. After word surfaced that Android OS was collecting location data and transmitting it to Google, he scheduled a Senate hearing where he expected both companies to testify.

“I’m pleased that Apple and Google have confirmed that they’ll be sending representatives to testify at my upcoming hearing on mobile technology and privacy,” Senator Franken said. “This hearing will serve as a first step in investigating if federal law protecting consumer privacy — particularly when it relates to mobile devices like smartphones and tablets — is keeping pace with advances in technology.”

Apple has already issued a public statement saying the location data stored on user’s iPhones lets the device locate its position faster since it doesn’t have to rely only on GPS data. The company also said the location data is a list of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers that are typically within 100 miles of the user.

Apple also said it isn’t using any data to track iPhone user’s locations.

“Each of the witnesses at the hearing will play a critical role in helping us better understand this complex issue and I look forward to hearing from them,” he added.

Senator Franken’s hearing is scheduled for 10AM eastern time on Tuesday, May 10.