The uproar over tracking devices in smart phones and other personal devices has reached the United States Government. On Monday, a House committee that oversees privacy issues sent letters to Apple, Google, Nokia, Research in Motion and Hewlett-Packard. The letter to Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO, poses questions like “What location data do devices running your operating system track, use, store, or share?” and “Why does the device track, use, store, or share that data?”
The committee expects solid answers by May 9.
The companies who make smart phones and develop apps have come under pressure since researchers discovered that iPhones and Androids contain several months of unencrypted data containing users’ location information. The Wall Street Journal claims that iPhones, along with Google’s Android smart phones, also regularly transmit location data back to the companies. Apple, in particular, has drawn scrutiny over its multiple patent applications for location-tracking technology, including one in 2009 that would help estimate a user’s location and store it in a database.
But both Apple and Google have said that users can prevent the data collection by simply turning off location-based services. Still, disabling these services may not stop the storage of location data on a smart phone.
A Nokia spokeswoman said that the data the devices collect “is only stored in the device, sent or collected when the user chooses to use such services.”
No other company has commented on the House’s inquiries.