Committee Questions Mobile Device Companies About Tracking of Phone Users' Locations

April 25, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC - Leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee today sent letters to several developers of mobile device operating systems seeking more information on whether these devices are tracking, storing, and sharing users' locations and the implications of such tracking for individual privacy and federal communications policy. The letters come on the heels of recent media reports that certain operating systems are tracking and storing information on users' locations - a revelation first explored by the Energy and Commerce Committee in the last Congress.

Today's inquiries, which build on the information previously gathered by the committee, were sent by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI); Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) and Vice Chair Lee Terry (R-NE); and Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee Chairman Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) and Vice Chair Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).

The letters, which were sent to Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Research in Motion, and HP, ask about location data that is tracked, used, stored, or shared by mobile device operating systems. Included in the inquiries are the following questions, along with several others:

  • How is that data accessible and who can access it? Is the data automatically transferred to your company or to other devices, or to third parties?  If so, how and why?  Is there any other manner in which the data can be transferred to or obtained by your company, or by other devices, or by third parties and, if so, how and why?
  • Is the user informed of, or given an opportunity to prevent, such tracking, use, storing, or sharing of data and, if so, how?  Can the end-user disable the tracking, use, storing, and sharing of such data?  Can the user delete the data?

Copies of the letters are available on the Energy and Commerce Committee website here.

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