* Barton, Markey release responses from wireless carriers
* Say privacy protections should also address apps
* Analyst doubts a privacy bill will pass this Congress
(Adds analyst comment)
By Jasmin Melvin
WASHINGTON, April 28 Mobile privacy safeguards
should also extend to third-party application developers, two
lawmakers said after reviewing the practices of four major U.S.
Representatives Edward Markey and Joe Barton, co-chairs of
the House Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, released on Thursday
letters they received from Verizon Wireless (VZ.N)(VOD.L), AT&T
Inc (T.N), Sprint Nextel Corp (S.N) and T-Mobile in response to
their inquiries last month about the collection, use and
storage of location data.
The letters showed the wireless carriers generally asked
customers before accessing their location data.
But developers of popular mobile phone applications were
less than forthcoming about their tracking.
"Third-party developers can access the location of
customers any time they want," Barton said. "They shouldn't
have free reign over your location data and personally
Markey echoed this sentiment, saying consumer privacy
protections must apply "across the entire wireless ecosystem --
from wireless carriers, to mobile handset makers, to
Markey and Barton grew concerned about location tracking
after media reports found that Deutsche Telekom AG (DTEGn.DE)
tracked the exact coordinates of a German politician using its
service over a six-month period.
More recently Apple Inc (AAPL.O) has been caught in a
firestorm that has broken out over whether it is monitoring the
whereabouts of its customers, promising to adjust the mobile
software to store less location data.
Google Inc (GOOG.O), a fierce competitor of Apple in mobile
computing, has also faced sharp criticism over reports that
Android-based phones track the locations of users.
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller will
hold a hearing in May on consumer protection and privacy in the
mobile marketplace. Senator Al Franken said on Thursday both
Google and Apple would attend his May 10 hearing, the first by
the new Senate judiciary subcommittee on privacy, technology
and the law.
It is unclear if this legislative scrutiny will lead to
strict new privacy laws that will include app developers.
"You'll see Congress give it a lot of attention, but it's
still going to be difficult to get comprehensive privacy
legislation out of this Congress," Medley Global Advisors
analyst Jeffrey Silva said.
(Reporting by Jasmin Melvin; editing by Andre Grenon)