Congress presses Apple, Alphabet on privacy issues

House Republicans seek answers from Apple and Alphabet on privacy issues

Lawmakers press Apple and Google to explain how they track and listen to users

An audience member takes a photo of the Apple logo before the start of the company's annual developer conference in San Jose, California, U.S. June 5, 2017. "Only a few weeks ago Apple announced changes to its App Store rules that were characterized as attempting to limit how much data third-party app developers can collect from Apple device users".

The Journal pointed to the case of Return Path, a marketing service that scans the inboxes of over two million users.

Lawmakers have also asked Apple about its collaboration with a company named RapidSOS to provide better location services for 911 calls and if RapidSOS will be sharing and retaining any data. Congressional hearings with Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg revealed several lawmakers were troubled by the amount of data that the social network collects on a regular basis.

Their letter included a list of questions about Google's data policies for app developers and third parties, as well as protections it had in place against abuse from its own employees.

Owners of iPhones can enable or disable Siri as they choose, Apple previously has said, but personal assistants often have to be listening constantly for their trigger words to function properly.

Google still permitted third parties to access the contents of users' emails, including message text, email signatures, and receipt data, to personalize content. This includes when devices are in "airplane mode" or have removed the SIM card - the small chip in cellphones that tie a phone to a particular person's plan.

The letters, which were first reported by the Wall Street Journal, cite numerous media reports over the past couple of years outlining Google's data collection practices. What about when the WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities have been disabled? "We look forward to answering the Committee's questions".

Both the letters go on to ask some specific questions from Apple and Alphabet, Google's parent company.

What just happened? Following the recent Gmail privacy debacle, House Republicans sitting on the Energy and Commerce Committee have sent letters to the CEOs of Alphabet and Apple with demands for answers regarding their roles in the scandal.

In response to the letter, Google simply told PCMag: "Protecting our users' privacy and securing their information is of the utmost importance". The letters were signed by Greg Walden of Oregon, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Gregg Harper of MS, and Bob Latta of Ohio.

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