United States lawmakers have reached out to Apple for additional clarification about its privacy policies and handling of user data. As noted by The Wall Street Journal, leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent letters to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet CEO Larry Page requesting more details about user privacy and data…
While Page was questioned a bit more throughly in his letter, Cook also faces some questions about how user data is shared and protected. Specifically, lawmakers seek information about “the collection and use of consumer data and microphone functionality of iPhones.”
“We write today to learn more about the capabilities of Apple’s iPhone devices, in particular the collection and use of consumer data and microphone functionality of iPhones. Recent reports have indicated that consumer data gathered through cell phones, including location information and recordings of users, may be used in ways that consumers do not expect.”
One issue raised is whether or not Apple devices are tracking user location, even when location services are disabled. The lawmakers explain that “consumers have a reasonable expectation of privacy when taking active steps to prevent being tracked by their device,” highlighting steps such as enabling AirPlane Mode and disabling location services altogether.
The letter also questions Apple about “Hey, Siri” functionality, raising concerns that iPhones could be collecting “non-triggered” audio data while trying to listen for the “Hey, Siri” phrase.
Finally, lawmakers take issue with a pair of comments made by Cook. One of those comments is, “We’ve never believed that these detailed profiles of people that have incredibly deep personal information patched together from several sources should exist.” This comment clearly refers to companies like Google and Facebook who build so-called “profiles” on users for things like targeted advertising.
The other comment cited by lawmakers is, “We felt strongly about privacy when no one cared.”
The issue lawmakers have with Cook’s privacy-focused statements relates to the App Store. “Users have consistently had access to apps through the App Store that you have highlighted as contradictory to Apple’s values, including Google and Facebook apps,” the letter reads.
This, of course, is a policy that Apple is working to change through updates to the App Store guidelines, which the lawmakers acknowledge. However, they also write that Cook’s statements “raise questions about how Apple device users’ data is protected when it is shared and complied.”
The full letter can be read here. This isn’t the first time Cook has faced pressure from lawmakers, having previously been questioned over things such as Face ID, Touch ID, and exploding iPhone batteries.