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Apple and Alphabet questioned by US Congress over collection of user data

The letters are based on reports that Google lets third-party developers read Gmail messages.

  • Published: July 10, 2018 12:33 PM IST
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Apple and Alphabet, the parent company of Google, have been requested to answer questions surrounding the collection of user data by top House Republicans of the Energy and Commerce Committee. The committee sent letters to CEOs of Apple and Alphabet requesting details on collection of data such as emails, location data and users’ voices through their devices.

The letters addressed to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet CEO Larry Page are said to be in response to reports last week about third-party developers being able to read Gmail messages using Google’s API and plug-in. The WSJ reports that the letter addressed to Google parent Alphabet also cites a November 2017 story that states Google tracked location of Android users even when the location services were disabled on their device.

“Android users have a reasonable expectation of privacy when taking active steps to prevent being tracked by their device,” the letter to Page reads, “… this alleged behavior is troubling.”

The Committee said in a press release that it has also asked both the companies for responses to statements on whether smartphones are actually listening in on our conversations. During his testimony in April, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg strongly condemned the conspiracy that his company listens to users via microphones to better serve ads.

Senator Gary Peters asked Zuckerberg, “Yes or no, does Facebook use audio obtained from mobile devices to enrich personal information about users?” Zuckerberg responded immediately with “No”.

While the letters from the Congress is mainly based on reports of Google letting third-party developers to read on user’s Gmail messages, the Congress is also pressing Apple to open up about what kind of access third-party developers have through the App Store. The letters addressed to Page and Cook also remind them about their commitments to user privacy, and raise several questions about their practice.

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“Protecting our users’ privacy and securing their information is of the utmost importance. We look forward to answering the Committee’s questions,” Google said in a statement to Gizmodo. Apple did not comment on letter addressed to its CEO. Cook and Larry Page are supposed to respond to the committee’s questions by July 23.

  • Published Date: July 10, 2018 12:33 PM IST