Washington questions your smartphone's impact on privacy

An Apple employee displays an iPhone showing the Verizon wireless network January 11, 2011, in New York City. In a long-anticipated move, Verizon and Apple have announced that Apple's popular iPhone mobile phone will be offered on a Verizon's phone network.

STACEY VANEK SMITH: Big Brother is not watching you after a big brew-haha over location tracking Apple now says the iPhone does not, in fact, track users locations. And that the data files researchers found and published last week were really just lists of cell phone towers and Wi-Fi hot spots the phone uses to operate efficiently.

Apple says a software bug caused the phones to keep that data longer than they're supposed to. So maybe Big Brother is accidentally watching you?

John Moe is the host of Marketplace tech report. He joins us now. John Good morning.

JOHN MOE: Hello.

SMITH: John, Apple has issued a statement saying that the data that it collected was all about wi-fi and data network coverage and that they are not indeed spying on us. But for some reason that has not settled the issue in Washington.

MOE: Oh the issue in Washington is just getting started. There's going to be -- the Senate Judiciary Committee has a sub-committee on privacy technology and the law. They're going to hold a hearing on May 10th entitled "Protecting Mobile Privacy: Your Smartphones, Tablets, Cell Phones and Your Privacy." So anytime a hearing has the word privacy twice in its title, you know they're really stepping up. And at the same time, House Republicans are sending letters to a lot of these tech companies asking questions about how data is being stored on devices, where it's being shared. And you know any time you have House Republicans calling for more regulation and more oversight, you know that this is an issue with a lot of momentum in Washington.

SMITH: Why does this issue have such political momentum on both sides of the aisle?

MOE: Well, it's part of a continuum. People have been talking about privacy in Washington for a while. But also I think a lot of this falls on the tech companies. They haven't been very forth coming about what their practices are. So, it's an easy thing for politicians to take advantage of. The tech companies are making it easier.

SMITH: Washington aside, are the tech companies going to do anything to change our phones?

MOE: You know, the data collection will continue. You can't stem the tides. I think it might mean some changes in transparency though. That's what a lot of the proposed legislation seems to be able is about these tech companies saying, "Look, this is exactly what we're doing. This is what we're doing it for. If you want to change it, let us know. So it's really a matter of what is being collected, how long it's being stored, whether it's encrypted. But the actual collection I think is not going to end any time soon.

SMITH: John Moe's the host of Marketplace Tech Report. John, thank you so much.

MOE: Thanks Stacey.

About the author

John Moe is the host of Marketplace Tech Report, where he provides an insightful overview of the latest tech news.

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