Federal officials and members of Congress say they’ll be looking into reports that Apple’s popular iPhones and iPads have been secretly tracking and recording users’ locations.
A report published by O’Reilly Media found that software on the devices has been collecting and storing the information in unencrypted files.
“Ever since iOS 4 arrived, your device has been storing a long list of locations and time stamps,” the researchers concluded. “We're not sure why Apple is gathering this data, but it's clearly intentional, as the database is being restored across backups, and even device migrations.”
On Thursday, Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., became the latest lawmaker to ask Apple for answers. In a letter sent to the company, Markey said the collection of location information could violate the law.
"Apple needs to safeguard the personal location information of its users to ensure that an iPhone doesn't become an iTrack," Markey said in a statement. "Collecting, storing and disclosing a consumer's location for commercial purposes without their express permission is unacceptable and would violate current law.”
On Wednesday, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., sent a letter to Apple seeking more information.
“There are numerous ways in which this information could be abused by criminals and bad actors,” he wrote. Franken went on to question why Apple is collecting the information at all.
And in the House, Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., said he is “deeply disturbed” by the report.
"I have been concerned that current law fails to ensure consumers are protected from privacy violations,” he said in a statement. “Consumers are often left to learn of these breaches of privacy from hackers and security experts because companies fail to disclose what data they are collecting and for what purpose.”
Officials at the Federal Communications Commission also said they would be looking into the issue.
This article appears in the April 21, 2011 edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.