FCC enters mobile privacy debate

The mobile privacy debate has a new player: the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The FCC is making its first move to get involved in an issue that has sounded alarm bells on Capitol Hill and among privacy advocates after research revealed the surprising granularity of location data stored on mobile phones.

Apple and Google executives testified earlier this month at a Senate Judiciary hearing, and will return to the Hill on Thursday to talk with the Commerce Committee. 

The FCC announced Tuesday that it is getting in on the action. The agency plans to hold a public forum on June 28, where staff will discuss privacy issues with tech companies, consumer advocates and wireless providers. 

The FCC paired up with the the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on this effort to avoid jurisdictional skirmishing. The FTC and the Commerce Department have each delved into privacy over the last year, producing reports and instructing Capitol Hill on how to shape privacy legislation. 

The FCC's public notice, released Tuesday, highlights the pros and cons of location tracking: "Over the last few years, [location-based services] have become an important part of the mobile market and a boon to the economy. Commercial location-based services include applications that help consumers find the lowest-priced product nearby or the nearest restaurant. Additionally, innovations in the use of location technology have the potential to open up new services for consumers and to aid public safety entities with emergency response."

However, the notice says "consumer apprehension" about privacy can inhibit people from adopting broadband services.