Washington – Members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee
on Wednesday peppered executives from Apple (NASD: AAPL) and Google (NASD: GOOG) with questions about the
way the companies are collecting location information about smartphone users. Last
month, security researchers published findings showing that Apple was
collecting and storing information about cell towers and Wi-Fi networks within
range of iPhone and iPad users, and Google and others later acknowledged similar practices.

Apple later denied that it collects consumer
data, but said it tracks nearby towers and Wi-Fi networks to provide better
location-based services to users who have opted-in to use them.

Sen. Al Franken
(D-Minn.) took Apple’s vice president of software technology, Guy L.
"Bud" Tribble, to task about the apparent disparity between
statements, and asked bluntly whether the company collects location information
on users.

Franken posed the same question to Alan Davidson, Google’s director
of public policy, who said that Google makes its location services opt-in only,
and that such services send only anonymized information back to the company.

Franken then went on to ask both Tribble and Davidson about what kind of access
third parties, such as app developers, have to this location data.

The hearing
then turned to other Apple- and Google-related issues of interest to the
lawmakers, who questioned the pair on topics ranging from Google’s collection
of Wi-Fi network data via its Street View car camera teams, to both companies’
refusal so far to remove an app that can help drivers steer clear of sobriety



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