While location privacy in relation to mobile devices has been an issue worth observing for some time now, the explosion of the iPhone tracking software brought the subject to the forefront. What happens with these reams and reams of geodata mobile device users produce? How is this information used? These are just a couple of the concerns facing the industry as we move forward.
At least one politician wants some answers. Senator Al Franken, a true friend of net neutrality, has turned his attention to mobile device privacy, and thanks to an interview in at the Washington Post website, the idea of politicians being informed in relation to modern technology isn't such a far-fetched idea. Granted, this awareness may be unique to Franken, but he does provide a sense of hope.
As for Franken, it's really quite simple. He believes people should have a modicum of control over the geodata they produce. At least in the sense of knowing what happens to it and what it's used for.
I believe people have a right to know what’s going on with their information and how it’s collected, how it’s stored and who gets it. The purpose of this hearing is to bring members of the committee and the Senate up to speed on those policies.
It's also a public service. People just don't know what these policies are. We'll see if there needs to be changes, either through legislation or in another way.
AT&T has already been questioned for their use of user-generated geodata, and that's before the iPhone hubbub. Franken's approach is to question what companies like Google and Apple have in mind when it comes to protecting a user's privacy:
I’d like to hear about how they can protect the privacy of the owners of these devices, in terms of their personal information. I’d also like to know what apps are doing and whether that information is shared with third parties.
Overall, Franken is dissatisfied with the current state of protection for mobile device users and that's something that needs to be addressed before the mobile device industry completes is total takeover of the technology industry. In fact, Franken doesn't think there are any effective privacy procedures in place at the moment:
The current policies don't do a lot of good. Apple’s software licensing agreement is about the same length as the Constitution. Google's screen for privacy settings does give you more options for what you share than Apple’s does. But it’s not a complete list and people aren’t aware of whether or not that information will go to a third party.
Unfortunately, it seems the average mobile device user remains ignorant on this subject, judging by the distinct lack of customer revolts. As long as the average user can text, Facebook, and tweet, all is well.
Thankfully, not all of our elected officials share the same level of apathy.
Lead image courtesy -- and no, the image is not making fun of Franken. His Trading Places character always makes me laugh out loud, and that's a good thing.