GOP senator asks Apple to offer 'Do Not Track' option for customers

GOP senator asks Apple to offer 'Do Not Track' option for customers
© Greg Nash

Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleySenate approves stopgap bill to prevent shutdown Senate passes legislation supporting Hong Kong protesters Hillicon Valley: Progressives oppose funding bill over surveillance authority | Senators call for 5G security coordinator | Facebook gets questions over location tracking | Louisiana hit by ransomware attack MORE (R-Mo.) on Monday morning sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook asking him to institute a "Do Not Track" option for Apple customers, which would allow users to opt out of any online tracking on the App Store beyond what is "indispensable" for the programs to run. 

Hawley's letter comes the day after Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference, in which the tech giant introduced a parade of new products and features, including some aimed at increasing Apple customers' privacy. 

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Hawley wrote he was "pleased" to see Apple announce on Monday that it will restrict apps from permanently tracking users' location and tapping into data about which Wi-Fi signals they are using. 

"But you can still do better," the Missouri Republican, an outspoken critic of Big Tech, wrote.

In the letter, he urged Apple to institute a policy that would require all apps on the App Store to respect users' wishes if they choose the Do Not Track option.

Hawley last month introduced legislation to create a federally enforced Do Not Track registry. The bill, which has the support of Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGOP senator blocks vote on House-passed Violence Against Women Act Congress feels heat to act on youth vaping GOP senator wants Violence Against Women Act passage by year end MORE (D-Calif.), would allow Americans to opt out of companies collecting their data beyond what is “necessary” for those services to run. And companies would face steep penalties if they fail to respect that decision.  

So far, the bill only has one co-sponsor. 

Previous attempts to create a federal Do Not Track registry failed about a decade ago amid industry pressure. Critics have said that proposal fell apart because it was largely voluntary — companies were asked to adopt Do Not Track measures without any threat of penalties if they refused to do so. Most of the country's largest internet browsers ultimately opted to ignore signals from customers who said they did not want to be tracked or for their data to be collected. 

Apple did not immediately respond to The Hill's request for comment.

"My bill takes a giant leap toward ending the greedy data-grabbing practices of bad-actor companies," Hawley wrote. "But this effort should not be led by Congress alone. You have it in your power to make good on your promise to be an industry leader. You should do so by implementing the principles behind my Do Not Track bill immediately." 

Recent reports have shown that apps on Apple's store gather enormous troves of data on iPhone users, oftentimes without their knowledge or consent. Apple has traditionally touted itself as more privacy-oriented than other tech giants, including Facebook and Google, both of which rely on collecting user data as a central part of their business model.