April 21, 2011: Markey to Apple: Is It iPhone or iTrack?

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Edward Markey (D-Mass), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and co-Chairman of the House Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, today sent a letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs querying him about Apple’s data collection, storage and disclosure practices. A recent The Guardian story entitled, "iPhone Keeps Record of Everywhere You Go", reported that Apple’s iOS 4 operating system collects customers’ location data, stores it on the user's iPhone and iPad, backs it up when synched with another device, and could leave it unprotected. In particular, the letter asks the company about compliance with Section 222 of the Communications Act, a provision that Rep. Markey authored, that requires companies to get express authorization from their customers for use, disclosure or access to location information for commercial purposes.

"Apple needs to safeguard the personal location information of its users to ensure that an iPhone doesn't become an iTrack," said Rep. Markey. "Collecting, storing and disclosing a consumer's location for commercial purposes without their express permission is unacceptable and would violate current law. That's why I am requesting responses to these questions to better understand Apple’s data collection and storage policies to make certain sensitive information can't be left behind for others to follow."

In the letter, Rep. Markey asks Apple to respond to questions that include:

  • Is it accurate that Apple iPhone keeps track of where iPhone users go, saving this information to a file on the device that is then copied to the owner's computer when the two are synchronized?  
  • Did Apple intentionally develop this functionality in order to log the locations of users? 
How does Apple collect this customer location information?

  • Does Apple use this information for any purpose?
  • Has Apple used this location information for any commercial purpose?
  • Is it possible for customers to disable this feature?  

  • Given the widespread usage of iPhones and iPads by individuals under the age of 18, is Apple concerned that the wide array of precise location data logged by these devices can be used to track minors, exposing them to potential harm?

A copy of the letter to Apple can be found HERE.