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Senators: New smartphone tracking law needed

Grant Gross, IDG News Service | May 19, 2011
The U.S. Congress needs to pass new laws to protect smartphone customers from having their locations tracked by operating systems and applications, members of a Senate subcommittee said Thursday.

ACT has a working group to develop privacy guidelines for app developers, Reed said. "Most mobile apps collect no information, and therefore, aren't technically required to have a policy," he said. "But we feel they should, not because of regulation, but because the most valuable asset they have is their trust from their customers."

Asked by Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, if self-regulation by the mobile industry on privacy issues was enough to protect consumers, Reed said he disagreed with Vladeck that the FTC has no authority in the area. Even without a privacy policy in place, the FTC could pursue a complaint of unfair business practices against a company that puts personal data to bad use, he said.

Representatives of Apple and Google defended their privacy practices, saying they do not collect and retain personal data without customer permission. Google is looking into whether it should require its app providers to have privacy policies, said Alan Davidson, the company's director of public policy for the Americas.

But Amy Guggenheim Shenkan, president and CEO of child advocacy group Common Sense Media, questioned if tech companies are doing enough to protect privacy. "It's so jarring to hear their can't-do attitude when it comes to inventing technological solutions to protect kids," she said. "We get half-measures after the fact, and then they only offer partial solutions. They can do better."

Guggenheim Shenkan called on Congress to require that Internet and mobile-phone companies get permission before tracking consumers. The standard should be "private by default and public by effort," she said. "Today, it's the other way around."

 

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