• Wed. Aug 3rd, 2022

US senators ask FTC to investigate Apple and Google mobile tracking

ByCindy J. Daddario

Jun 25, 2022

A group of Democratic senators are urging the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Apple and Google over their collection of mobile user information. In a letter to FTC Chairman Lina Khan, the lawmakers – Senators Ron Wyden, Elizabeth Warren, Cory A. Booker and Sara Jacobs – accuse the tech giants of “engaging in unfair and deceptive practices by allowing the collection and sale of hundreds of millions of personal data of mobile phone users. They added that the companies “facilitated these harmful practices by creating advertising-specific tracking IDs in their mobile operating systems.”

The senators specifically mentioned in their letter how people seeking abortions will become particularly vulnerable if their data, particularly their location information, is collected and shared. They wrote the letter shortly before the Supreme Court officially overturned Roe v. Wade, making abortion immediately illegal in states with trigger laws. They explained that data brokers were already selling location information of people visiting abortion providers. The senators also pointed out how this information can now be used by private citizens incentivized by “bounty hunter” laws targeting people seeking abortions.

Android and Google were built with tracking IDs which are used for advertising purposes. While IDs are meant to be anonymous, the senators said data brokers sell databases linking them to consumers’ names, email addresses and phone numbers. Apple rolled out an update for iOS last year to implement stricter privacy measures for app tracking, requiring apps to ask for permission before collecting users’ unique identification code to track apps. advertisers.

Google, they said, still enables this tracking ID by default. The company previously introduced features to make it harder to track users across apps, and it recently committed to refining Privacy Sandbox on Android, “with the aim of introducing new, more private ad solutions.” The tech giant said Ars-Technica“Google never sells user data, and Google Play strictly prohibits the sale of user data by developers…Any claim that an advertising ID was created to facilitate the sale of data is simply false.”

Despite the solutions put in place by the companies, lawmakers said they had already caused damage. They’re now asking the FTC to examine the role Apple and Google have played in “turning online advertising into an intense surveillance system that incentivizes and facilitates the unrestricted collection and constant sale of Americans’ personal data.” “.

Wyden and 41 other Democratic lawmakers also urged Google last month to stop collecting and storing location data that could be used against people who have had or are seeking abortions. More recently, another group of lawmakers led by Senator Mark Warner and Representative Elissa Slotkin called on the company to “crack down on manipulative search results ‘that drive people seeking abortions to anti-abortion clinics’.”