FCC asks Apple, Google to location-tracking forum

WASHINGTON Tue May 17, 2011 5:08pm EDT

A customer holds iPhones she purchased shortly after the phone went on sale with the Verizon Wireless network in Boca Raton, Florida in this February 10, 2011 file photo. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

A customer holds iPhones she purchased shortly after the phone went on sale with the Verizon Wireless network in Boca Raton, Florida in this February 10, 2011 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Joe Skipper

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In its first look at the growing controversy about location tracking by smartphones, the Federal Communications Commission has invited Apple, Google and consumer advocates to a forum in late June.

The FCC will study the risks and benefits of location-based services at a "public education forum" on June 28 that will include wireless carriers, other technology companies and consumer advocacy groups, the FCC said on Tuesday.

The revelation last month that Apple's iPhones collected location data and stored it for up to a year -- even when location software was supposedly turned off -- has prompted renewed scrutiny of the nexus between location and privacy.

Google, a fierce competitor of Apple in mobile computing, has also faced sharp criticism over reports that Android-based phones track the locations of users.

Lawmakers have raised concerns that tech companies may not be doing enough to safeguard their customers' privacy in favor of selling location data to potential advertisers.

It is unclear if the concern will translate into a legislative or regulatory crackdown on location-based services.

The FCC feels that the technology has a lot of promise but is also concerned that consumers are unaware of what data is collected and what is done with it, said an FCC official, who asked not to be named.

"While the use of location data has spurred innovation, the FCC's National Broadband Plan recognizes that consumer apprehension about privacy can also act as a barrier to the adoption and utilization of broadband and mobile devices," the FCC said in a statement.

The FCC forum will discuss how location tracking occurs, identify industry best practices and talk about location tracking of children, among other issues. The Federal Trade Commission will also participate.

The agency said it would use the session, as well as public comments, to produce a staff report on location-based tracking.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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Comments (1)
electric38 wrote:
Is there a chart available showing the mobile overall coverage throughout the United States?

As education moves to an on line form, I am wondering if there are any areas of the US that could not be reached, if we were to advance our teaching methods so that the most productive teachers at every level were able to be used.

Will online education be among the topics discussed at this meeting?

Will students in areas that are shown to be low in educational achievement, share the teaching of those that are more productive? Do our cell tower coverages presently have this capability?

May 17, 2011 12:46am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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