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Senator Leahy pushes for privacy law changes in light of smartphone location tracking

In a letter to Google CEO Larry Page and Apple CEO Steve Jobs, Leahy wrote: “Like many Americans, I read with deep concern recent press reports indicating that [Android Phones and iPhones] collect, store and track user location data without the user’s consent. As Congress considers updates to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and other Federal privacy laws, it is essential that the Senate Judiciary Committee have full and accurate information about the privacy risks posed by this new technology.”

Leahy added: “The collection and storage of sensitive location information has serious implications regarding the privacy rights and personal safety of American consumers. While there are many benefits to innovative technologies like the [Android Phone and iPhone], American consumers deserve to know the potential risks that these new technologies pose to their privacy and security.”

A Senate Judiciary panel is planning to hold a hearing on the issue on May 10. Star witnesses appearing before the privacy, technology, and law subcommittee will be representatives from Apple and Google, as well as officials from the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission.

Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said in a statement: “This hearing will serve as a first step in investigating if federal law protecting consumer privacy – particularly when it relates to mobile devices like smartphones and tablets – is keeping pace with advances in technology."

Reports surfaced last month that Apple iPhone and Google Android handsets record user location data without user authorization.

Apple has denied that it tracks the location of iPhone users without permission and said it will fix a “bug” that results in location tracking even when the location service is turned off. Google said that it provides notice and control to users over collection, sharing, and use of location information.

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