updated 03:40 pm EDT, Thu May 12, 2011
EU officials plan non-binding geolocation policy
The European Union's Article 29 Working Party regulator group said on Thursday that it would put out a non-binding opinion that would set the direction for location data on smartphones and other devices. The statement would call on companies to assume location was personal information and get permission, avoid tying location to a person, and purge the information after a certain amount of time. It could serve as a possible guideline, however, for future action by the European Commission or individual countries that would make location privacy a requirement.
Separately, a few European countries such as Germany and the UK have already launched inquiries into mobile location data. Most of these have centered on iOS devices and Android after reports claiming they were tracking data either without consent or more than owners expected.
Both Apple and Google defended their existing policies at a hearing in the US this week. Apple has maintained that its log of locations was intended for a crowd-sourced database and was only marking nearby access points, not the user. Google has maintained that all its tracking is opt-in but hasn't offered a full explanation of why location info is collected as frequently as every two minutes.
Apple may skirt any deeper problems as its recent iOS 4.3.3 update cut back on the scope of location data it collected while making that data more secure.