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Apple, Sony Face Possible Action By EU Data Privacy Regulators

Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Sony Corp. (6758) face “possible action” by data protection regulators in the European Union over possible privacy lapses by the storing of iPhone location data and the hacking of the PlayStation Network.

A group of data protection officials from the 27-nation EU, which guides the work of national authorities across Europe that have the power to levy penalties for non-compliance, said they have “taken note” of the reports on the collection and storage of location data on Apple’s iPhones and the leak of personal information from the Sony PlayStation Network.

Several “members are currently looking at the specifics of what has happened and are considering possible actions,” said Jacob Kohnstamm, chairman of the so-called Article 29 Working Party. “So far, no decisions have been taken.”

Regulators in Germany, France and Italy said last week they are checking whether Apple’s iPhone and iPad products violate privacy rules by tracking, storing and sharing data about the locations of users. Irish officials are also examining “a number of complaints about this issue,” Diarmuid Hallinan, a spokesman for the country’s data protection commissioner, said in an e-mail yesterday.

The group of European privacy regulators said it “aims for coordinated action where possible within the boundaries of national legislation” and that the two cases have shown “the need for companies to ensure from the outset the personal data of their consumers are well protected.”

A report by O’Reilly Radar, a website owned by Sebastopol, California-based publisher O’Reilly Media has said Apple devices log latitude-longitude coordinates along with the time of visits to locations across the globe.

U.K., Irish and Italian information watchdogs said this week that they will investigate the hacking of Sony’s PlayStation Network after the company warned 77 million customers may have had their personal data stolen.

Apple said in a statement it is “not tracking the location of your iPhone” and “has no plans to ever do so.” The Cupertino, California-based company said the iPhone saves information on WiFi hotspots and cellular towers near a handset’s current location, which helps the phone determine its location when needed by the user.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stephanie Bodoni in Luxembourg at sbodoni@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

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