August 15, 2022

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Motivated by Roe's coup, senators seek FTC tracking iOS and Android investigation [Updated]

Motivated by Roe’s coup, senators seek FTC tracking iOS and Android investigation [Updated]

Four Democratic senators today asked the Federal Trade Commission to “investigate Apple and Google for engaging in unfair and deceptive practices by enabling the collection and sale of hundreds of millions of personal data of mobile users.”

“The Federal Trade Commission should investigate the role of Apple and Google in transforming online advertising into an extensive monitoring system that incentivizes and facilitates the unrestricted collection and continued sale of Americans’ personal data,” they wrote. “These companies have failed to inform consumers of the privacy and security risks involved in using these products. It is too late to put an end to the privacy damage these companies impose on consumers.”

the message Cited the overturning of the Supreme Court’s decision Raw vs. Wade, saying that women “who seek abortion and other reproductive health care will become particularly vulnerable to privacy harms, including through the collection and sharing of their location data”. And she continued:

Data brokers already sell, license, and share location information to people who visit abortion providers to anyone with a credit card. Prosecutors in states where abortion is now illegal will soon be able to obtain orders for location information about anyone who has visited an abortion provider. Private actors will also be incentivized by government bounty laws to hunt down women who have obtained or sought abortions by accessing location information through shady data brokers.

iOS and Android ‘fueling the unregulated data broker market’

The letter was sent to Federal Trade Commission Chair Lena Khan by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Oklahoma), Elizabeth Warren (D), Corey Booker (DN.J.), and Sarah Jacobs (D-CA). The senators wrote that Apple and Google “knowingly facilitated these harmful practices by creating ad-specific tracking identifiers in their mobile operating systems.”

“Apple and Google have designed their mobile operating systems, iOS and Android, to include unique tracking identifiers that they have specifically marketed for advertising purposes,” the letter reads. “These identifiers have fueled the unregulated data broker market by creating a single piece of information associated with a device that data brokers and their customers can use to link with other data about consumers. This data is purchased or obtained from app developers and online advertisers, and can include consumer movements and activity Browse the web.”

While Apple has stopped enabling tracking identifiers by default, the senators wrote that both companies were hurting consumers:

Both Apple and Google now allow consumers to opt out of this tracking. Until recently, however, Apple enabled this tracking ID by default and required consumers to search confusing phone settings to turn it off. Google still enables this tracking ID by default, and until recently did not provide consumers with opt-outs. By failing to warn consumers of the predictable harm that could result from using their phones with the default settings these companies choose, Apple and Google have enabled governments and private actors to exploit ad tracking systems for their own surveillance and exposed hundreds of millions of Americans to severe harm with privacy.

last week, Warren suggested Legislation bans data brokers from selling location and health data to Americans.

‘Anonymous’ identifiers can be associated with people

The letter said the advertising identifiers were “anonymous” but in fact “can be easily associated with individual users”. “This is because some data brokers sell databases that explicitly link these advertising identifiers to consumers’ names, email addresses, and phone numbers. But even without purchasing this additional data, it is often possible to easily identify a specific consumer in a data set that ‘records anonymous location’ from During the search to find out where they sleep at night.

We asked Apple and Google for comment on the message and will update this story if we get any response.

Update at 2:55 p.m. ET: Google responded to Ars, citing its efforts to block apps that violate Google Play policies and prohibited I imposed on him comp Which apparently sold user data. “Google never sells user data, and Google Play strictly forbids the sale of user data by developers,” the company said in a statement. “The advertising identifier was created to give users more control and provide developers with a more private way to effectively monetize their apps. In addition, Google Play has policies in place that prohibit the use of this data for purposes other than advertising and user analytics. Creating it to facilitate the sale of data is simply a mistake.”

Google also said that its Android Privacy Sandbox “will enable new, more private advertising solutions that limit the sharing of user data with third parties and operate without identifiers between parties, including advertising identifiers.” Ars correspondent Ron Amadeo coverage From that initiative he called it “Toothless”.

EFF calls for action by Congress and tech companies

Senators’ speech prepared before the official release of the Supreme Court Abortion decision, which was released today after a draft was leaked in early May. In response to today’s court ruling, Electronic Frontier Foundation He said It “emphasizes the importance of fair and meaningful protection of data privacy.”

The EFF said: “Everyone deserves to have strong controls over the collection and use of information they necessarily leave behind in the course of their normal activities, such as using apps, search engine queries, posting on social media, texting friends, etc. ” . “But those who seek, offer or facilitate abortion must now assume that any data they provide online or offline can be sought by law enforcement.”

The EFF urged state and federal lawmakers to “pass meaningful privacy legislation” and said companies should protect privacy “by allowing anonymous access, stopping behavioral tracking, strengthening data deletion policies, encrypting data in transit, and enabling end-to-end message encryption By default., preventing location tracking, and ensuring users receive a notification when their data is being searched.”

Last month, more than 40 Democratic members of Congress called on google To stop collecting and retaining customer location data that prosecutors can use to identify women who get abortions. Lawmakers were also a job On comprehensive data privacy legislation, but no proposal About to be passed.

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