Apple to Testify Before Congress on Smartphone Privacy

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Updated 6:04 p.m. With Sen. Al Franken set to hold a subcommittee hearing looking into data stored by smartphones, Steve Jobs confirmed today in an interview with All Things D that Apple plans to testify*:

He said Apple looks forward to testifying before Congress and other regulatory bodies and said the company will do what it can to clarify things further.

"I think Apple will be testifying," Jobs said. "They have asked us to come and we will honor their request, of course."

Jobs also said it will be interesting to see how aggressively the press tracks the issue and looks at what other players in the industry do.

"Some of them don't do what we do," Jobs said. "That's for sure."

Franken has requested that both Apple and Google send representatives to testify at the May 10 hearing of the Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law. The subcommittee was created when the new Congress convened in January. This hearing, on "Protecting Mobile Privacy: Your Smartphones, Tablets, Cell Phones and Your Privacy," will be the subcommittee's first ever.

The Judiciary Committee hasn't heard from Google about whether it will send anyone to testify. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who chairs the full committee, sent a letter to Jobs and Google CEO Larry Page Wednesday urging them to seriously consider Franken's request.

His letter to Google:

April 27, 2011
Mr. Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google, Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway

Mountain View, CA 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

I write to urge Google, Inc., to accept the invitation of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, to appear at the Subcommittee's May 10, 201 L hearing on "Protecting Mobile Privacy: Your Smartphones, Tablets, Cell Phones and Your Privacy." Like many Americans, I read with deep concern recent press reports indicating that smartphones powered by Google's Android software (Android Phone) collect, store and track user location data without the user's consent. As Congress considers updates to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and other Federal privacy laws, it is essential that the Senate Judiciary Committee have full and accurate information about the privacy risks posed by this new technology.

The collection and storage of sensitive location information has serious implications regarding the privacy rights and personal safety of American consumers. While there are many benefits to innovative technologies like the Android Phone, American consumers deserve to know the potential risks that these new technologies pose to their privacy and security. The upcoming hearing on this important issue provides a timely opportunity for Google, Inc., to directly address these pressing privacy issues.

I trust that you will carefully consider the invitation to testify. I look forward to your prompt response to this letter.

Sincerely

PATRICK LEAHY
CHAIRMAN


*This post originally stated, in the headline as well as the first sentence, that Steve Jobs had confirmed that Steve Jobs himself would testify. As @joshgreenman points out, that's not really what he said: Jobs simply stated that he expects Apple will be represented at the hearing, not necessarily by him. The post has been corrected. Thanks, @joshgreenman.

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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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