Lawmakers press probe of Apple, Google over mobile device tracking (NASDAQ:AAPL)

Phone signal in a data matrix city.

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Four lawmakers are pressing the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) over the tracking and sale of mobile-phone personal information.

A letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan from four Democrats said the two dominant phone operating-system makers “knowingly facilitated these harmful practices by building advertising-specific tracking IDs into their mobile operating systems.”

Users on Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS now have a route to opt out of having specific phone-system identifiers transmitted to apps on the phone.

“Until recently, however, Apple enabled this tracking ID by default and required consumers to dig through confusing phone settings to turn it off. Google still enables this tracking identifier by default, and until recently did not even provide consumers with an opt-out,” says the letter from Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden, Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, and Democratic Rep. Sara Jacobs.

Such “anonymous” phone identifiers are easily linked by data brokers to individual phone owners, they say, such as by finding one consumer in “anonymous” location records by “looking to see where they sleep at night.”

“The FTC should investigate Apple and Google’s role in transforming online advertising into an intense system of surveillance that incentivizes and facilitates the unrestrained collection and constant sale of Americans’ personal data,” the lawmakers wrote.


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