Sen. Franken Leads Hearing On Phone Tracking

By Holly Wagner, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Sen. Al Franken will lead a hearing on Capitol Hill Tuesday about protecting your privacy while using mobile devices like smart phones and tablets.

The issue has been a concern since word came out that many of the devices are tracking people’s moves and it has been raising eyebrows among consumers, cell phone providers and lawmakers.

Franken is spearheading the effort in Washington and created the new subcommittee to try and bring privacy laws up to date. He said a big concern for him is all of the people who don’t know that their personal information on their smart phone or through an app is being shared.

At the hearing, Congress will demand answers from both Apple and Google. A Senate panel will question executives about reports that iPhones and iPads with 3G and Android phones secretly track and store their users’ every move.

Sen. Al Franken At Senate Panel Hearing

Both companies are expected to defend themselves claiming the tracking devices are not meant to spy on customers, but instead, help them by providing directions to the nearest coffee shop or gas station.

In a letter released Monday, Apple said that, “consumers are increasingly demanding accurate location information from their handheld devices.”

Apple and Google insist they only record the locations of Wi-Fi hot spots and cell towers and that tracking can be turned off.

Still, lawmakers are calling for new legislation to protect consumers — a move many experts say is long overdue.

“We have privacy laws for telephone communications, electronic mail messaging, but we really don’t have modern privacy laws to address some of these modern services and new technologies,” said Marc Rotenberg, the Executive Director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

An estimated 72.5 million Americans own smart phones, but it’s not just those devices that Congress is worried about. Lawmakers are also expected to raise questions about third party apps, like games, which can keep tabs on customers as well.

Manufacturers of the devices are expected to explain the kind of information that’s being collected and how it’s used. That will give consumers an idea of how much information they’re sharing.

Franken said with all of the advances in technology, we can stay connected like never before and we have access to amazing resources, but it’s also allowing our sensitive information to be shared.

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