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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 Democrats urge Amazon to investigate, recall 'defective' products Asbestos ban stalls in Congress amid partisan fight Pharma execs say FDA will not lower standards for coronavirus vaccine 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 WaldenEnsuring more Americans have access to 5G technology Race heats up for top GOP post on powerful Energy and Commerce Committee Asbestos ban stalls in Congress amid partisan fight MORE (R-Ore.), also signed on to the letter, as did Reps. Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyPelosi, Mnuchin continue COVID-19 talks amid dwindling odds for deal Pocan won't seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair Hillicon Valley: Facebook to label posts if candidates prematurely declare victory | Supreme Court hears landmark B Google, Oracle copyright fight | House Dem accuses Ratcliffe of politicizing election security intel MORE (D-Ill.) and Cathy McMorris RodgersCathy McMorris RodgersConservatives seize on New York Post story to push Section 230 reform Race heats up for top GOP post on powerful Energy and Commerce Committee Hillicon Valley: Trump backs potential Microsoft, TikTok deal, sets September deadline | House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing | Facebook labels manipulated Pelosi video MORE (R-Wash.).