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Google, Microsoft, Apple Testifiles Before Congress, Grilled Over Mobile Privacy ‘Location Tracking’ Issues

Google and Apple on Tuesday, May 10, faced a barrage of questions on the hot issue surrounding the mobile privacy i.e. location tracking and data capturing during a hearing headed by Sen. Al Franken.

In a slip of the tongue, Sen. Patrick Leahy used the term “spyphones” rather than smartphones when he referred to Mountain View-based Google’s Android and Cupertino-based Apple’s iPhone devices.

Representatives from the companies said that what’s being tracked are cell towers and Wi-Fi hotspots, not the locations of users.

Franken called that explanation “confusing.”

Both companies also pointed out that users can turn off the location tracing on their individual phones, but Franken said a recent problem Apple acknowledged was that iPhones could be tracked even after the user turned it off.

Concerns Franken relayed include the danger of stalking, or abusive spouses using the capability to find their victimized family members.

Prior to the hearing, Apple delivered a detailed letter to Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass) in response to the iPhone tracking issue. It was recently revealed that Microsoft also collected user data through its Windows Phone. The three companies have received a slew of letters from lawmakers regarding the largest privacy controversy of the year.

Apple also said it has fixed the flaw in the iOS patch that allowed user location to be uploaded even after the tracking feature on the iPhone was turned off.

You can read Alan Davidson, Google’s Director of Public Policy, Americas, full testimony here or watch a webcast of the hearing here, Microsoft’s Andy Lees testimony here.

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