May 10, 2011: Apple Responds to Rep. Markey

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), co-Chairman of the Bi-Partisan Congressional Privacy Caucus, released the following statement today upon receiving Apple’s written response to his April 21 letter to CEO Steve Jobs querying him about the company’s data collection, storage and disclosure practices. Rep. Markey wrote to the company last month in response to media reports that the Apple iOS 4 operating system was collecting customers’ location data, storing it on the user's iPhone and iPad for months without adequate data security, and backing it up when synched with another device, leaving it unprotected.

I am pleased that after my letter Apple announced that its next iOS update would address several of the concerns I raised about the company’s practices with respect to the collection, use and disclosure of location information.  Specifically, Apple will encrypt location information stored on customers’ iPhones and iPads and other Apple mobile devices and significantly shorten the amount of time location information is retained by the company.

“Still, I remain concerned about the apparent contradiction between Apple’s assertion that it does not track consumers and its explanation that it maintains a database of Wi-Fi hotspots and cell towers around a user’s current location. Such a distinction does not make much difference to consumers whose location could be pinpointed with great accuracy.  While Apple states that ‘some’ of these hotspots and cell towers may be more than a 100 miles from a user’s location, others may be much closer.

“Apple’s response also indicates that the company has entered into a confidential business relationship with a third party to share the anonymous location data it gathers from users. Apple should make more details of this sharing arrangement known, and I will be following up with Apple to get clarification on this issue.

“Apple has a responsibility to be transparent with its customers and ensure that personal information is safeguarded to the greatest extent possible. I will continue to closely monitor the company's efforts to protect this extremely sensitive data, especially with respect to information about minors and children.”

Rep. Markey, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and co-Chairman of the House Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus with Congressman Joe Barton (R-Texas), last week released a discussion draft with Rep. Barton of children’s online privacy legislation , “The Do Not Track Kids Act of 2011”. The legislation would update the landmark Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 to extend, enhance and update the provisions relating to the collection, use and disclosure of children’s personal information and establish new protections for personal information of children and teens.

A copy of the Apple response to Rep. Markey can be found HERE .

A copy of the letter Rep. Markey sent to Apple CEO Steve Jobs can be found HERE .