Lawmakers press Apple on location collection and sharing policies

Lawmakers are probing Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) about recent changes to its consumer privacy policy that authorize the collection and sharing of "precise location data" from the iPhone and iPad.

Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas), the co-chairmen of the House Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, sent a letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs asking him to provide information about the policy. In the letter, they said they were concerned that Apple customers were automatically having their data collected unless they actively opted out.

"Given the limited ability of Apple users to opt out of the revised policy and still be able to take advantage of the features of their Apple products, we are concerned about the impact the collection of such data could have on the privacy of Apple's customers," the lawmakers wrote in the letter. They are seeking answers to their questions by July 12.

Apple's iAd advertising service is set to go live July 1, and earlier this week, Apple quietly updated is privacy policy. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, Apple's privacy policy now states, in part: "To provide location-based services on Apple products, Apple and our partners and licensees may collect, use and share precise location data, including the real-time geographic location of your Apple computer or device. This location data is collected anonymously in a form that does not personally identify you and is used by Apple and our partners and licensees to provide and improve location-based products and services."

An Apple spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for the FCC's consumer and governmental affairs bureau did not respond to a request for comment. 

Google, Apple's rival in smartphones and--more recently--in mobile advertising, also collects personal location data from its Android smartphones. Google's privacy policy states, in part: "If you use location-enabled products and services, such as Google Maps for mobile, you may be sending us location information. This information may reveal your actual location, such as GPS data, or it may not, such as when you submit a partial address to look at a map of the area."

For more:
- see this Washington Post article
- see this L.A. Times article

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