US senators ask FTC to investigate Apple and Google over mobile tracking

by mcdix

A group of Democratic senators is urging the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Apple and Google over their information collection from mobile users. In a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan, lawmakers — Senators Ron Wyden, Elizabeth Warren, Cory A. Booker, and Sara Jacobs — accused the tech giants of “engaged in unfair and deceptive practices by collecting and selling hundreds of millions of the personal data from mobile phone users.” They added that the companies “facilitated these malicious practices by building ad-specific tracking IDs into their mobile operating systems.”

The senators specifically mentioned in their letter how individuals seeking abortions will become particularly vulnerable if their data, especially their location, is collected and shared. They explained that data brokers are already selling the location information of people visiting abortion providers. The senators also highlighted how that information could now be used by individuals, boosted by “bounty hunters” laws targeting individuals seeking an abortion.


They wrote the letter shortly before the Supreme Court officially quashed Roe v. Wade, immediately making abortion illegal in states with trigger laws. Android and Google are built with tracking IDs used for advertising purposes. While the identifiers should be anonymous, the senators said data brokers sell databases that link them to consumer names, email addresses, and phone numbers. Apple rolled out an update to iOS last year to implement stricter app-tracking privacy measures, requiring apps to ask for permission before collecting users’ unique device code Identification for Advertisers.

Google, they said, still enables that tracking ID by default. The company previously introduced features that make tracking users in apps harder. It recently vowed to refine Privacy Sandbox on Android “to introduce new, more private advertising solutions.” The tech giant told 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 the companies had introduced, lawmakers said they had already done damage. They are now asking the FTC to look at Apple and Google’s role in “transforming online advertising into an intense surveillance system that encourages and facilitates the unrestrained collection and constant sale of Americans’ data.”

Wyden and 41 other Democratic lawmakers last month urged Google to stop collecting and storing location data that could be used against people who have had or intend to have abortions. More recently, another group of lawmakers led by Senator Mark Warner and Representative Elissa Slotkin asked the company to address instead “manipulative search results” that direct people seeking abortions to anti-abortion clinics. Our editorial team, independent of our parent company, has selected all productsEngadgett recommend.s Some of our stories contain affiliate links. We may earn an affiliate commission if you buy something through one of these links.

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