Democrats press Apple on iPhone privacy concerns

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) want Apple to provide answers on why its iPhone and iPad products reportedly store data on user locations in a hidden file.

"I’m deeply disturbed by this report. I have been concerned that current law fails to ensure consumers are protected from privacy violations," Inslee said in a statement.

"Consumers are often left to learn of these breaches of privacy from hackers and security experts because companies fail to disclose what data they are collecting and for what purpose.”

Two British researchers reported the existence of the data on Wednesday, which they said can be used to track a user's movements over months. The pair created an app that allows users to view a visualization of their own location data. Franken warned that third parties could use the data for nefarious purposes.

"There are numerous ways in which this information could be abused by criminals and bad actors," Franken wrote in a letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

"Furthermore, there is no indication that this file is any different for underage iPhone or iPad users, meaning that the millions of children and teenagers who use iPhone or iPad devices also risk having their location collected and compromised."

Franken's letter includes a list of questions for Apple such as why the firm collects the data and how it is generated. He also asks if other Apple devices such as laptops store user location data and to whom it has been been disclosed. Inslee said he intends to ask Apple similar questions in the near future.

The legislation further heightens the debate over online privacy legislation, which is likely to take center stage in the coming months. Both chambers have seen the introduction of comprehensive online privacy bills in recent weeks focused on giving consumers the right to opt-out of having their data collected or shared.