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Summary:

The U.S. Senate has posted a notice for an upcoming Judiciary Committee meeting on mobile privacy, to be held May 10 at 10:00 AM EST in Washington, D.C. Apple VP of Software Technology Bud Tribble will provide testimony at the session.

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The U.S. Senate has posted a notice for an upcoming Judiciary Committee meeting on mobile privacy, to be held May 10 at 10:00 a.m. EDT in Washington, D.C., and Apple VP of Software Technology Bud Tribble is among those providing testimony at the session.

Legislators put together the hearing, named “Protecting Mobile Privacy: Your Smartphones, Tablets, Cell Phones and Your Privacy,” in response to consumer concerns over the use of data shared via their mobile devices. Apple garnered the most recent attention surrounding the issue when researchers publicized the fact that Apple’s iOS devices were keeping a record of users’ general locations.

Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) issued a public letter calling for answers regarding the company’s privacy practices surrounding location services, and Apple issued an official response shortly thereafter answering said questions. The Mac-maker also noted that it looked forward to the opportunity to clarify these issues by testifying before lawmakers. Apple then released an update earlier this week that makes location information stored on devices more secure, and also changes the cache size so that less data is stored.

Like Apple, Google also makes use of anonymized location data transmitted from Android devices, the company revealed after Apple’s location storage practices came to light. Google will also testify before the Senate committee, via Google Public Policy Director Alan Davidson.

Also in attendance will be Sen. Franken, who will preside over the hearing, as well as Jessica Rich, deputy director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection; and Jason Weinstein, deputy assistant attorney general of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Dept. of Justice, who will act as the hearing’s first panel. Apple and Google will be on the second panel, along with Justin Brookman, director of the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Project on Consumer Privacy; Ashkan Soltani, an independent consultant; and Jonathan Zuck, president of the Association for Competitive Technology.

Apple’s representative Bud Tribble has been with Apple since near the very beginning, having helped design the Mac OS and user interface. He left Apple with Jobs and worked at NeXT as VP of Software Development, and returned to Apple in 2002 after spending some time at Sun Microsystems and Eazel. He is arguably the Apple employee with the most history with Jobs.

As is often the case, technology ran ahead of regulation and clearly defined limits when it comes to location services and other mobile private data concerns. This hearing could be the first step in the creation of regulations or legislation that specifically address those concerns. Apple, Google and others in the industry will be keen to participate in the process in order to attempt to allay lawmaker concerns and keep the space as self-regulated as possible.

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  1. I don’t own an Android phone, but I looked at their set-up process for new owners. It appears you have to create a Google account. And that process collects extremely sensitive data like your date of birth. Then if you use Google mail and other Google services, they could build an extensive dossier on you. I’d be particularly worried about that information getting in the hands of prospective employers, 70% of whom admitted to discriminating against a candidate due to information they found on the Internet. So it’s clear employers are making hiring discriminations on things irrelevant to business. I suspect Google already sells this information for data services like Lexus-Nexus.

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