WASHINGTON, DC – The Energy and Commerce Committee today sent letters to Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet CEO Larry Page to probe the companies’ representation of third-party access to consumer data, and the collection and use of audio recording data as well as location information via iPhone and Android devices.

The letters were signed by full committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Gregg Harper (R-MS), and Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection Subcommittee Chairman Bob Latta (R-OH).

The leaders pose to both Mr. Cook and Mr. Page, “Recent reports have also suggested that smartphone devices can, and in some instances, do, collect ‘non-triggered’ audio data from users’ conversations near a smartphone in order to hear a ‘trigger’ phrase, such as ‘okay Google’ or ‘hey Siri.’ It has also been suggested that third party applications have access to and use this ‘non-triggered’ data without disclosure to users.”

The letter to Mr. Cook reads, “In the wake of the privacy scandals that surfaced earlier this year, you made several comments to the press around Apple’s beliefs about privacy, including ‘[w]e’ve never believed that these detailed profiles of people that have incredibly deep personal information that is patched together from several sources should exist.’ However, users have consistently had access to apps through the App Store that you have highlighted as contradictory to Apple’s values, including Google and Facebook apps. 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. These statements and actions raise questions about how Apple device users’ data is protected and when it is shared and compiled.”

The letter to Mr. Page reads, “In June 2017, Google announced changes to Gmail that would halt scanning the contents of a user’s email to personalize advertisements to ‘keep privacy and security paramount.’ Last week, reports surfaced that in spite of this policy change, Google still permitted third parties to access the contents of users’ emails, including message text, email signatures, and receipt data, to personalize content. In the context of free services offered by third parties, these practices raise questions about how representations made by a platform are carried out in practice.”

To read the letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, click here.

To read the letter to Alphabet CEO Larry Page, click here.

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