Apple, Google Privacy Meeting Sought By Illinois’s Madigan

Apple, Google Privacy Meeting Sought By Illinoiss Madigan
A man checks the Google Inc. web page using an Apple iPad, made by Apple Inc., in this posed photograph arranged in London. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

Apple Inc. and Google Inc. executives were asked to meet with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to discuss reports their products collect, store and can relay information about users’ locations.

Madigan wrote to both companies asking what information they store, its purposes and for how long, according to a statement issued today by her office.

“I want to know whether consumers have been informed of what is being tracked and stored by Apple and Google and whether those tracking and storage features can be disabled,” Madigan said in the statement.

Apple, based in Cupertino, California, is the maker of iPhone mobile telephones and iPad tablet computers, each of which was cited in the attorney general’s statement, as was the Android software developed by Google for use in mobile phones.

Alasdair Allan, a senior research fellow in astronomy at the U.K.’s University of Exeter, and former Apple software engineer Pete Warden in an April 20 report said the Apple products’ operating software collects latitude and longitude coordinates along with the dates and times the points are visited.

The tracking, probably based on the location of nearby mobile-phone towers, raises security and privacy questions, Allan and Warden wrote. The information can total tens of thousands of data points and isn’t encrypted, they said. There is no evidence it is being shared, according to their report.

European Probes

The report prompted investigations by regulators in France, Germany, Italy and South Korea.

Steve Dowling, a spokesman for Apple, didn’t return a call seeking comment on the Illinois attorney general’s announcement.

Google gathers some data for its location features, said Chris Gaither, a company spokesman.

“All location sharing on Android is opt-in by the user,” Gaither said today in an e-mail. “We provide users with notice and control over the collection, sharing and use of location in order to provide a better mobile experience on Android devices. Any location data that is sent back to Google location servers is anonymized and is not tied or traceable to a specific user.”

He declined to comment on Madigan’s request for a meeting.

Global sales of smartphones, including Android devices and iPhones, will reach 468 million units in 2011, a 58 percent increase from last year, according to Gartner Inc.

Samsung, Motorola

Companies including Samsung Electronics Co., Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. and HTC Corp. are using Google’s Android operating system in their devices. Android will account for 39 percent of global smartphone sales this year, compared with 19 percent for Apple’s iPhone operating system, Gartner said.

France last month fined Google 100,000 euros ($142,000) for collecting personal computer data from open WiFi networks during the creation of its Street View mapping service.

Its conduct has been the subject of probes by other E.U. member states and the U.S., which ended its review in October after the company said it would improve safeguards.

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