Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), chairman of the recently created subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has written to Apple (Franken pdf; archive pdf) concerning researchers’ revelations about the tracking and storage of users’ location data on Apple iPhones and 3G-enabled iPad tablets. Franken writes:
I read with concern a recent report by security researchers that Apple’s iOS 4 operating system is secretly compiling its customers’ location data in a file stored on iPhones, 3G iPads and every computer that users use to ‘sync’ their devices. […]
The existence of such information — stored in an unencrypted format — raises serious privacy concerns. The researchers who uncovered this file speculated that it generated location data based on cell phone triangulation technology. If that is indeed the case, the location available in this file is likely accurate to 50 meters or less. […]
There are numerous ways in which this information could be abused by criminals and bad actors. […] These developments raise several questions:
1. Why does Apple collect and compile this location data? Why did Apple choose to initiate tracking this data in its iOS 4 operating system? [NOTE: The research indicates Apple has been tracking this data before iOS 4, it just became easier to find with iOS 4.] […]
4. How frequently is a user’s location recorded? What triggers the creation of a record of someone’s location? […]
7. Why were Apple consumers never affirmatively informed of the collection and retention of their location data in this manner? Why did Apple not seek affirmative consent before doing so?
9. To whom, if anyone, including Apple, has this data been disclosed? When and why were these disclosures made?