House turns its sights on Apple over new privacy policy

Posted by Emma Woollacott

It's Apple's turn to come under scrutiny from senators for its privacy practices.

Reps Edward J Markey and Joe Barton (yes, them again) are raising questions with Steve Jobs over Apple’s privacy policy.

The company amended the policy  earlier this week. It now requires users to agree to the real-time collection and storage of their location data, and gives Apple the right to share this information with third parties.

“Given the limited ability of Apple users to opt out of the revised policy and still be able to take advantage of the features of their Apple products, we are concerned about the impact the collection of such data could have on the privacy of Apple’s customers,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter.

They want to know what data Apple's collecting, when it started, and whether it applies to all users. The letter also asks how the company is ensuring that the data is, as Apple claims, stored anonymously, and with whom it plans to share it.

Section 222 of the Communications Act mandates that no information on  consumers' location should be shared without their explicit prior consent. Apple clearly believes it's complying with this - but the senators aren't so sure.

"Does Apple believe that legal boilerplate in a general information policy, which the consumer must agree to in order to download applications or updates, is fully consistent with the intent of Section 222, and sufficient to inform the consumer that the consumer’s location may be disclosed to other parties?" asks the letter.

"Has Apple or its legal counsel conducted an analysis of this issue?  If yes, please provide a copy.  If not, why not?"

They've asked Jobs to respond by July 12.

Markey and Barton - don't they sound just like a cop show double act? - are on a bit of a roll. Last month, they persuaded the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Google's collection of Wifi data with its Street View cars.