updated 01:35 pm EDT, Tue May 10, 2011
Executives repeat defense of location policies
As planned, executives from Apple and Google appeared in front of a US Senate judiciary subcommittee on mobile privacy on Tuesday. Speaking on behalf of Apple was the company's VP of software technology, Guy L. "Bud" Tribble, who repeated some of the company's previous positions on mobile privacy. "Apple is strongly committed to giving our customers clear and transparent notice, choice and control over their information, and we believe our products do so in a simple and elegant way," said Tribble.
He also revealed that Apple conducts random audits of apps to check on rule compliance, and that it monitors blogs and the "active community" of app users in case of violations. If a violation can't be fixed the title is removed within 24 hours and the developer is notified, Tribble explained.
The Google representative for the hearing was Alan Davidson, a director of public policy for the Americas. He firstly defended the company's collection of data from Wi-Fi hotspots using Street View cars, reiterating the position that the gathering was accidental and not meant to improve Google Maps. "It was a mistake, and we certainly never intended to collect payload information," he said.
The director further contrasted Google with Apple, saying that because Android is open-source, Google takes a hands-off approach to apps once they are put on sale. To protect users, Google warns them about the features apps on the Android Market might use, location services being among them.
The issue of possible wrongdoing on Apple's part was raised by Sen. Franken and Jessica Rich, the deputy director for the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the FTC. At one point in an exchange between the two Franken asked if Apple was being "deceptive" in saying that turning off Location Services would halt data collection; until iOS 4.3.3, the action continued to leave the cache functioning. "If a statement is made by a company that is false, it is a deceptive practice," said Rich, avoiding directing the comment at Apple in particular.