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Monday, March 05, 2012, 06:30 pm PT (09:30 pm ET)

Apple, Google agree to meet with US senator over mobile privacy

After a U.S. senator sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission calling for an investigation into apparent privacy loopholes in the iOS and Android mobile operating systems, Apple and Google agreed to meet with him to discuss the issue.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) told The New York Times on Monday that both companies had gotten in touch with him and were willing to meet to discuss potential threats to user privacy that had been discovered in their respective platforms.

At issue for Schumer are two concerns that have been raised in recent weeks. In late February, the Times reported that iOS applications could upload geo-tagged photos in the background after receiving user approval to access location information. Earlier last month, it was discovered that a number of apps were uploading address books without asking for permission.

“We asked them if they could find a way on their own to prevent apps from having access to private info,” he said. “They were friendly and open to the idea that this ought to be changed.”

A spokeswoman for the FTC acknowledged having received the senator's letter, but she declined to comment further on the matter.

PhotoSpy

Test app PhotoSpy's location authorization pop-up. | Source: The New York Times


Schumer reportedly wrote in his letter that the thought of potential privacy violations sent "shivers up the spine." He surmised that Apple and Google have the technology to close up any loopholes and called for them to do so.

The senator also said he was "optimistic" that the issue could be resolved without the need for regulation. The FTC itself recently urged the industry to "redouble its efforts to focus on privacy issues," warning that failure to do so could result in "additional pressure" in the form of legislation.

The issue of mobile privacy has been a hot topic for legislators and regulators alike and has resulted in Apple being called to multiple hearings on the matter. The company met with both the U.S. Senate, the FTC and the FCC last year to explain its policies on safeguarding user location information.