Lawmakers Question Apple and Google on Personal Data Collection Policies

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by MacRumors, Jul 9, 2018.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee this morning sent letters to Apple and Google parent company Alphabet to ask 16 multi-part questions about how the companies handle customer data, according to a press release.

    The letter to Apple [PDF] cites recent media reports as the reason for the inquiry, referencing November news suggesting Android collects extensive user location data even when location services are disabled along with reports that smartphones collect and store "non-triggered" audio data from user conversations near a smartphone to hear a trigger phrase such as "Ok Google" or "Hey Siri."


    While both of these reports were focused on Android, the House wants to know if Apple has similar practices, collecting location data when location services, WiFi, and Bluetooth are disabled or gathering "non-triggered" voice data from customers and sharing it with third-party sources.

    A summary of some of the questions are below, with the complete list available in a PDF of the letter shared by the committee.

    [*]When an iPhone lacks a SIM card (or if WiFi, Bluetooth, or location services are disabled), is that phone programmed to collect and locally store information through a different data-collection capability, if available, regarding: nearby cellular towers, nearby WiFi hotspots, or nearby Bluetooth beacons? If yes, are iPhones without SIM cards (or with WiFi/Bluetooth/location services disabled) programmed to send this locally stored information to Apple?
    [*]If a consumer using an iPhone has disabled location services for multiple apps, but then reenables location services for one app, are iPhones programmed to reenable location services for all apps on that phone?
    [*]Do Apple's iPhone devices have the capability to listen to consumers without a clear, unambiguous audio trigger? If yes, how is this data used by Apple? What access to this data does Apple give to third parties?
    [*]Do Apple's iPhone devices collect audio recordings of users without consent?
    [*]Could Apple control or limit the data collected by third-party apps available on the App Store? Please provide a list of all data elements that can be collected by a third-party app downloaded on an iPhone device about a user.
    [*]Apple recently announced a partnership with RapidSOS for enhanced location services for 911 calls. What role will RapidSOS serve in the sharing and retention of this information?
    [*]What limits does Apple place on third-party developers' ability to collect information from users' or from users' devices? Please describe in detail changes made in June 2017 from prior policies.

    That last question references App Store Guidelines that Apple updated in June to restrict apps from from collecting user data to build advertising profiles or contact databases. The new rules also prohibit apps from harvesting data from an iPhone user's contacts to create contact databases.

    The letter goes on to request Apple's policies for data collection via the microphone, Bluetooth, WiFi, and cellular networking capabilities, along with Apple's policies pertaining to third-party access and use of data collected by the microphone. It also asks whether Apple has suspended or banned companies for violating its App Store rules, requesting specific examples and whether users had been notified their data was misused when the developer was banned.

    The House Energy and Commerce Committee asks Apple to make arrangements to provide a briefing on the topics listed in the letter, but it does not provide a timeline for when Apple needs to respond. Apple generally responds to these requests in a prompt manner, however.

    Apple maintains stricter and more transparent privacy policies than companies like Google and Facebook, with a dedicated privacy website that explains its approach to privacy, outlines tools available to customers to protect their privacy, and details government data requests.

    Privacy is at the forefront of many features Apple implements, and the company is careful to always outline the privacy protections that have been added when introducing new functionality. When introducing new Photos features in iOS 12 that allow for improved search and sharing suggestions, for example, Apple was quick to point out that these features are all on-device.

    Apple executives have said several times that Apple customers are not the company's product, and Apple CEO Tim Cook has maintained that privacy is a fundamental human right. From a recent interview:
    Cook has also said that people are not fully aware of how their data is being used and who has access to it, a problem that "needs to be addressed."
    Apple is continually introducing new privacy tools and protections for customers. Both macOS Mojave and iOS 12 include security and privacy improvements designed to better protect users, with additional tracking protection in Safari on both operating systems and extended privacy protections in Mojave.

    Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

    Article Link: Lawmakers Question Apple and Google on Personal Data Collection Policies
  2. Centris 650 macrumors 6502a

    Centris 650

    Dec 26, 2002
    Near Charleston, SC
    That's ok. I question lawmakers personal data collection policies.
  3. PotatoLeekSoup macrumors regular

    May 10, 2015
  4. Will.O.Bie macrumors 6502


    Aug 29, 2016
    I hope that they're careful what they disclose to the government. They just might be mining processes on how to bypass what they're questioning here.
  5. asiga macrumors 6502a

    Nov 4, 2012
    If a device doesn’t allow you to completely disable the storage of your personal data, then the device is questionable by design. And neither iOS nor Android give you the freedom of not storing your private data, so both systems are highly questionable. You cannot even disable the facial recognition of the photos you take. But people don’t worry, until some security breach happens, and then they scream (when they chose to take the risk in the first place).
  6. bbeagle macrumors 68040


    Oct 19, 2010
    Buffalo, NY
    These questions need to be worded better. For example:
    • Do Apple's iPhone devices collect audio recordings of users without consent?
    All devices are constantly 'recording' like 5 seconds looking for 'Hey Siri' or 'Hello Google' if that feature is turned on. But if this 'recording' is instantly removed when 'Hey Siri' is not recognized, and this 'recording' can never be captured by anything else, then 'technically' it's true, that recordings are collected without consent, but in reality what the question is asking another way is NOT true. They're not 'stored'.
  7. H2SO4 macrumors 68040

    Nov 4, 2008
    I'd bet a years wages that all that rubbish about keeping your data private is a facade. Guess what, they'll buy what they can't get from the iPhone, from data miners/advertisers anyway.
  8. I7guy macrumors P6

    Nov 30, 2013
    Looking at Central Park@550 feet
    Without some personal data your iPhone becomes a typewriter. You might as well be using a burner. I’m okay with some personal data on the phone, but don’t want Apple to be nefarious about how they may use it and can personal data be restricted only to the phone that collected it?
  9. AndyUnderscoreR macrumors regular


    Jul 11, 2008
    "Do Apple's iPhone devices have the capability to listen to consumers without a clear, unambiguous audio trigger?"

    How stupid are these people? Do they seriously expect a phone to hear a "clear, unambiguous audio trigger" without listening for one?
  10. WannaGoMac macrumors 68020

    Feb 11, 2007
    Given a choice between a company that we know does all these things for advertising (google), a company that at least says it doesn't (apple), and having no real way of knowing which is being honest or not, I know which company I'd rather take the gamble on given there are only 2 smartphones OS to choose.
  11. L-Viz macrumors regular


    Apr 28, 2017
    We want You to use our fabulous iOS Devices. And iCloud. You don't need a regular computer any more, with hard drives, and lots of storage. We will keep the data safe for You. We love Your data.
  12. H2SO4 macrumors 68040

    Nov 4, 2008
    The difference is miniscule. Read the T's & C's they are worded, (deliberately), in such a way as to allow them to do what they want.
    So Apple don't want to speed, so they get a lift with a person that they know breaks the limit. That way only the driver and not the passenger gets a ticket.

    ALL big companies are awful, what we've done is turned a blind eye to it or accepted the 'cost'.
  13. now i see it macrumors 68020

    Jan 2, 2002
    Since android is basically another data mining extension of Alphabet/Google, they're gunna have some explaining to do.
  14. Mousse macrumors 68000


    Apr 7, 2008
    Flea Bottom, King's Landing
    So the Gub'ment is only going after the mobile phones.:( Because they need to target MS as well. Any computer savvy person who has used Win10 has an inkling of how much data they collect on you. I peeked through the settings to see what gets sent to MS's servers...:eek: Gawd, I must have ticked 100+ settings to disable stuff being sent to MS. I'm sure there is a lot more I missed.
    I threw my hands up and nuked the OS and installed Win7. I've got Win10 as a guest OS (VMWare) for the occasional app that requires Win10.
  15. DeepIn2U macrumors 603


    May 30, 2002
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Lol shouldn’t these lawmakers be contacting the US Government division NSA?!
    --- Post Merged, Jul 9, 2018 ---
    Lol yes I’m fully aware as well. This was outlined for the past 2yrs now.

    You should be using Win10 Enterprise not Professional FYI.
    --- Post Merged, Jul 9, 2018 ---
    Of a 5 hour daily sessions it could take Google years (if they practice the same advertisement in answering questions like Zuckerberg did this year).
  16. 69Mustang macrumors 603


    Jan 7, 2014
    In between a rock and a hard place
    A better question? How stupid do they want you to think they are? The answer is very. The question is purposely crafted to elicit one answer: Yes. Phones do have that capability. The fact that phones require that capability to properly utilize certain functions is immaterial to the narrative being built. Yes is the only answer to that question and I guarantee it's the only answer they want.

    The answer to your question is... not stupid at all.
  17. thisisnotmyname macrumors 68000


    Oct 22, 2014
    known but velocity indeterminate
    I don't expect Apple is sweating this conversation at all. I would think they welcome it to further differentiate their focus on privacy from the competition.
  18. Bacillus, Jul 9, 2018
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2018

    Bacillus Suspended


    Jun 25, 2009
    Privacy breach will happen if profiled data gets sold on anonymous basis, but smart algorithms are able to re-assemble your identity from multiple sources’ records.
    In that case, all parties fullfil their legal duties but still customer privacy is compromised and nobody to be held accountable...
    For Apple to fullfil its claims it should get itself out of this cycle and categorically stop selling data - whether anonymized or not
  19. JPLC macrumors 6502

    Dec 20, 2011
    How can you possibly use an audio trigger without listening all the time?

    Also, even though there’s a difference between collecting data connected to an anonymous ID or a personal ID, both can be connected to advertising profiles like targeted Google ads and suggestions in the iTunes Store.
  20. macduke macrumors G3


    Jun 27, 2007
    Central U.S.
    They just want Apple on the record. Everyone knows that Google is the one to be worried about. Kinda surprised they didn't go after Amazon. Do most lawmakers even know what Alexa is?
  21. macfacts macrumors 68030


    Oct 7, 2012
    Interesting Apple recently bought Shazam. I know Shazam is listening to my mic before I even click "Shazam" because the song ID is near instant.
  22. jonblatho macrumors 6502a


    Jan 20, 2014
    Most lawmakers barely know what the internet is other than something they pay staffers to handle for them.
  23. BootsWalking macrumors 6502a

    Feb 1, 2014
    Considering Apple gets billions of dollars a year in secret payments from Google perhaps Apple needs to worry as well.
  24. I7guy macrumors P6

    Nov 30, 2013
    Looking at Central Park@550 feet
    How are they secret? Does anything change if is typed into safari?
  25. cocky jeremy macrumors 68040

    cocky jeremy

    Jul 12, 2008
    Columbus, OH
    It's no secret that Google pays billions to be the default search engine.

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