Congress has questions for Google's 'Sensorvault'

Congress has questions for Google's 'Sensorvault'
© Greg Nash

Top members on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are calling for answers from Google CEO Sundar Pichai on the tech giant’s “Sensorvault,” which holds the precise location information of hundreds of millions of consumers.

In a bipartisan letter sent to Pichai on Tuesday signed by Chairman Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneHouse panel investigating private equity firms' role in surprise medical billing Hotel industry mounts attack on Airbnb with House bill Push on 'surprise' medical bills hits new roadblocks MORE (D-N.J.), the lawmakers expressed concerns over consumer privacy, citing a report by The New York Times that the database contains the information of almost every Android user.

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Such information has been used in the past by police for criminal cases.

Users of the devices can essentially have their “whole pattern of life" tracked, since the data is collected even when apps aren’t being used and calls aren’t taking place, the lawmakers noted in their letter.

“The potential ramifications for consumer privacy are far reaching and concerning when examining the purposes for the Sensorvault database and how precise location information could be shared with third parties,” they wrote. “We would like to know the purposes for which Google maintains the Sensorvault database and the extent to which Google shares precise location information from this database with third parties.”

The lawmakers asking why Google stores the information, whether there are additional databases, who has access to the information, how accurate the information is, whether users can limit the company’s access to their information, what its retention policy is and whether it sells or shares the information with third parties.

The lawmakers requested to be briefed by the company by May 10 and that Google respond to written questions by May 7.

The panel’s ranking member, Rep. Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenHouse panel investigating private equity firms' role in surprise medical billing Hotel industry mounts attack on Airbnb with House bill Wave of GOP retirements threatens 2020 comeback MORE (R-Ore.), also signed on to the letter, as did Reps. Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyLawmakers jump-start talks on privacy bill The Hill's Morning Report — Mueller testimony gives Trump a boost as Dems ponder next steps On The Money: House to vote on budget deal Thursday | US, China resuming trade talks next week | Mnuchin backs DOJ tech antitrust probe MORE (D-Ill.) and Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersSocial determinants of health — health care isn't just bugs and bacteria Lawmakers deride FTC settlement as weak on Facebook Overnight Energy: Fight over fuel standards intensifies | Democrats grill Trump officials over rule rollback | California official blasts EPA chief over broken talks | Former EPA official says Wheeler lied to Congress MORE (R-Wash.).