Senator Asks Apple, Google About Wi-Fi Data Collection

Because a letter from Senator Al Franken and two Senate privacy hearings apparently aren’t enough, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) has fired off his own list of questions to Apple and Google about the types of data they collect from Wi-Fi networks. Senator Blumenthal is concerned that companies may be harvesting data from wireless networks and then using that information without user’s knowledge, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Senator Richard BlumenthalSenator Blumenthal hit Apple with Wi-Fi privacy questions

Senator Blumenthal said in his letter that collecting data from Wi-Fi networks “raises issues regarding what constitutes a reasonable expectation of privacy.”

Along with Apple and Google, the Senator is looking for answers from Microsoft, RIM, Nokia and Skyhook Wireless.

In inquiry is looking for information on what types of data the companies gather from wireless networks, how they collect it, what happens with the data, and what sorts of things the companies have “contemplated” using the data for. Companies such as Skyhook and Apple, already use Wi-Fi hotspot location information to help triangulate where users are for mapping applications.

Google admitted a year ago to inadvertently collecting email and other personal information from open Wi-Fi networks as part of its Streetview map project.

Skyhook Wireless founder Ted Morgan commented “We welcome the questions and would be glad to answer the Senator. From day one when we invented this technology we have tried to be very open about our techniques and the data we collect.”

Google has also said that it plans to answer the Senator’s questions. Apple, Microsoft, Nokia and RIM have not offered comments on the letter.