Franken asks Apple, Google to testify at May 10 privacy hearing

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) has invited representatives from Apple and Google to testify at a May 10 hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee's Privacy subpanel on protecting consumers' privacy while using mobile devices.

“Recent advances in mobile technology have allowed Americans to stay connected like never before and put an astonishing number of resources at our fingertips,” Franken said. “But the same technology that has given us smartphones, tablets, and cell phones has also allowed these devices to gather extremely sensitive information about users, including detailed records of their daily movements and location.

This hearing is the first step in making certain that federal laws protecting consumers’ privacy — particularly when it comes to mobile devices — keep pace with advances in technology," he added.

The hearing will be the first for the newly formed subcommittee, and comes in the wake of recent revelations by two British researchers and The Wall Street Journal that both Android and iPhone smartphones may transmit user location data back to Google and Apple, respectively.

Franken has been joined by his House colleagues Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) in questioning Google and Apple on why they collect the data and how they use the information.

Google defended the practice to the Journal, arguing they offer Android users notification and control over the sharing of the data and that any data sent back to Google is anonymized.

The website MacRumors published what they claim is an email exchange between a reader and Apple CEO Steve Jobs in which Jobs allegedly responded to the reader's question about the purpose of the location data by asserting that Google tracks users, but Apple does not.