Franken Continues to Hound Apple and Google About Mobile Privacy Policies

The eager chair of the Privacy, Technology and Law senate subcommittee, Sen. Al Franken, didn’t waste time following up with Apple and Google after the May 9th hearing on mobile privacy. Last week, Franken sent a letter to Chief Apple Executive, Steve Jobs, and Google CEO, Larry Page, inquiring about instituting universal privacy policies for all applications on their respective iOS and Android platforms.

Though technical upgrades have since solved the problem, Apple currently faces government injunctions in France, Germany and Italy related to the highly-publicized, iOS 4 mobile-security scandal; unbeknownst to users, location data was being collected and stored. In other words, European countries bound to strict Safe Harbor privacy laws are gunning for the U.S. tech corporations. Following suit, officials on the home-front are also beginning to investigate Apple’s and Google’s mobile privacy standards.

At a recent Senate hearing on wi-fi data security, it was revealed that only 20% of free mobile applications include an accessible privacy policy. To rectify this state of affairs, officials suggested that Apple and Google require developers to submit a privacy policy with every application – one that satisfies the points in the FTC’s Fair Information Principals.

Apple’s representatives at the hearing, Vice President of Software Bud Tribble, admitted his company’s current development contract doesn’t require a privacy policy. Tribble also questioned the effectiveness of a EULA that would undoubtedly be left unread. Instead, he suggested implementing a universal graphical interface similar to the location service icon currently used on iPhones.

While Sen. Franken acknowledged that a standardized mobile privacy statement will not solve the security problem, he argued it would represent a step in the right direction. In his correspondence, Sen. Franken reminded the two companies of their attested “commitment to user privacy” and suggested that the implementation of a universal policy would prove said sentiments sincere.

A response is expected from both Apple and Google within the next several weeks.

Software developers should keep tabs on Privacy, Technology and Law Committee news. If Apple and Google do comply with the government’s suggestions, it’s possible that published applications that are currently for sale in online and offline marketplaces, may need to be tweaked. Play it safe and consult a tech-savvy Internet privacy lawyer to learn more about the proposed legislation and how it will affect your work.

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