Sen. Franken wants Apple and Google to require privacy policies for all smartphone apps

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) wrote Wednesday to Apple and Google, repeating his request for the firms to require clear privacy policies from all applications sold for their smartphone platforms.

“Apple and Google have each said time and again that they are committed to protecting users’ privacy,” the senator wrote in a letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Google CEO Larry page. “This is an easy opportunity for your companies to put that commitment into action.”

Franken first raised the request at a Senate Judiciary Privacy subpanel hearing on mobile privacy earlier this month. He cited reports claiming most of the popular iPhone and Android apps lack clear privacy policies and said, at a minimum, apps that collect user location data should have clear privacy policies.

"Requiring that each app in your stores have a clear, understandable privacy policy would not resolve most of the privacy concerns in the mobile market," Franken said.

"But it would be a simple first step that would provide users, privacy advocates and federal consumer protection authorities a minimum of information about what information an app will access and who that app will share that information with third parties."

The issue of mobile privacy has escalated in recent months after reports that Apple and Google smartphones can be tracked using stored location data; both firms have denied tracking users.

Bipartisan support for consumer privacy legislation appears to be building and most lawmakers appear in agreement that user's location data should not be shared without their consent.

Apple and Google have both outlined their privacy policies at recent congressional hearings and say no user information is shared without their consent, but the recent incidents have increased the support for legislation that would make that pledge mandatory for all firms.