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Franken to hold hearing on mobile device privacy; asks Apple, Google execs to testify

WASHINGTON — Sen. Al Franken will hold his first Senate hearing on privacy concerns in mobile devices, following the public revelation that smartphones, including the popular iPhone and those running on Google's Android system, have been tracking detailed location histories and storing them in unencrypted formats.

The hearing will be held here on May 10, at 9 a.m. CDT.

"Recent advances in mobile technology have allowed Americans to stay connected like never before and put an astonishing number of resources at our fingertips," Franken said in a statement announcing the hearing. "But the same technology that has given us smartphones, tablets, and cell phones has also allowed these devices to gather extremely sensitive information about users, including detailed records of their daily movements and location. This hearing is the first step in making certain that federal laws protecting consumers’ privacy — particularly when it comes to mobile devices — keep pace with advances in technology."

In a letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs last week, Franken said the information collection and storage "raises serious privacy concerns." Executives from Apple and Google have been invited to testify, though none have confirmed as yet. Officials with Franken's office confirmed that representatives from the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission will be in attendance. 

A small sidebar for Franken himself: This is the first hearing for Franken's Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, and while he has chaired Judiciary hearings before, this is the first one where speakers will address Minnesota's junior senator as "Mr. Chairman" in his own subcommittee.

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Comments (4)

There is another analysis of the location-related data collected on iPhones: http://www.willclarke.net/?p=247. The statement being repeated by all media and now politicians that user's location is being tracked may be simply false. At this point we simply don't know either the true nature or the intent of the data - perhaps the inflammatory statements about tracking children and battered women should wait until we facts are on the table.

The dollar is declining. The government pays out more than it takes in. S&P threatens U.S. credit rating downgrade.

Franken's -- and Klobuchar's, for that matter -- obsession with consumer issues is supposed to take our eyes off the fact that Rome is burning.

Worse, like Rome, the Senate is impotent to do anything about it.

[And when it comes time for Franken fundraisers to design their online fundraising campaign, do you think they'll worry about "serious privacy concerns" when deciding which Google and Apple algorithms to buy? Not a chance.]

@2: I had this feeling when attending a DFL convention. More or less agreement on issues, no agreement whatsoever on priorities. Franken and Klobuchar always mean well and they're usually right - but as members of the 100 most powerful people in the country I'd rather they focus on things that are truly pressing and big, like energy and economic policies.

With the price of gasoline at $4 (it was $1.80 at the beginning of the current administration), tracking the movements of citizens is of little concern; many of us go to and from work and little else. Perhaps, an issue worthy of attention to those who agreed to serve us in Washington

I tire of hearing that there is no inflation. Core inflation does not include price volatile elements like fuel and food, things we all need. It does include housing, whose sagging value holds down core inflation. It's all good news. Instead of dealing with issues that are a struggle to the citizens of this nation, let's see what is going on over at google and Apple.