Apple Responds to Lawmakers' Questions on Location-Based Data

Lora Bentley
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Almost a month ago now U.S. lawmakers asked Apple to explain exactly what happens with the user location data it collects so that certain Apple services, like Mobile Me, can work properly. At the time, Reps. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Joe Martin, R-Texas, were concerned that Apple's privacy policy required iPhone, iPad and iPod users to consent to the collection of their personal data, including location, or give up using those products altogether.


Monday, reported Apple's general counsel and senior vice president for legal and government affairs, Bruce Sewell, responded to the lawmakers' questions in a 13-page letter. Dated July 12 and marked for hand delivery, the letter sets out pertinent information about Apple's privacy policy, the software license agreements for various products, the iAd network and other aspects of Apple's business that come into play, and then answers each of the lawmakers' nine questions in turn.


In essence, Sewell explained that Apple collects information on users who have enabled location-based services, those who have agreed to receive iAds, and those who have agreed to receive diagnostic information on their devices. The data is collected every 12 hours and encrypted before it is sent to Apple via Wi-Fi. According to

Attached to the GPS data is a random identification number generated by the phone every 24 hours. The information is not associated with a particular customer.

Sewell also explained that users who wish not to send geographic data to Apple can disable location-based services on their devices.


The lawmakers' reaction to the responses was mixed, writer Nancy Gehring says. Markey was satisfied that Apple obtained user consent before collecting the information and also gave users different means of "opting out" of the data collection. Barton, on the other hand, was not convinced. He noted:

I remain concerned about privacy policies that run on for pages and pages.

Whether these or other lawmakers will probe further on the issue remains to be seen.

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