Apple, Google Mobile Tracking Activity Pushes Lawmakers to Demand FTC Investigation

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Four democratic congressmen asserted that Apple and Google are enabling the trade of mobile phone users’ personal information.

Legislators pushed FTC to examine how Apple and Google made it easier to collect Americans’ personal information without proper consent continually.

Four Legislators Writes Letter to FTC Against Apple, Google’s User Data Violations

The Federal Trade Commission was requested to look into Apple Inc. (AAPL 1.86%) and Alphabet Inc.’s (GOOG 3.66%) Google after four democratic lawmakers claimed the companies are engaged in unfair and deceptive practices by enabling the collection and sale of mobile phone users’ personal information.

In a letter delivered on Friday to FTC chair Lina Khan, the legislators said that Apple and Google “knowingly enabled these damaging activities” by incorporating advertising-specific monitoring identifications into their mobile operating systems.

These mobile-ad IDs are a string of numbers and characters integrated into iOS and Android. The respective mobile operating systems of Apple and Google use such mobile-ad IDs to gather user data. Recently, both companies have taken measures to minimize this data collecting. There is now an option for users of both operating systems to choose not to give their identity to apps. Last year, Apple released a new version of its software that mandates that every program get permission from the user before accessing the device’s identifier. At the same time, Google is preparing to implement new privacy limitations to limit tracking across applications on Android handsets.

The letter signed by Senators Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.); Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.); Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.); and Rep. Sara Jacobs (D., Calif.) criticized Google for continuing to use this tracking identity by default and for not even offering users an opt-out until now. It also stated that Apple has still left this tracking ID active by default and needed users to navigate their way through convoluted phone settings to disable it. Continuously, it declared that these IDs had fueled the unregulated data broker sector by generating a single piece of information connected to a device that data brokers and their clients may use to link to additional consumer data.

They said that although these IDs appear anonymous, it is simple to identify the owners of the phones they are connected with. The authors noted that in a collection of ‘anonymous’ location records, it is frequently simple to pinpoint a specific customer by checking where they spend the night.

Apple and Google representatives did not immediately fulfill requests for comment from the FTC.

Khan Leaderships Tightens User Data Regulations, Apple, Google Turned Internet Ad Into a Relentless Surveillance System

The FTC has been working to tighten the regulations governing how internet firms get user data since Ms. Khan assumed the organization’s leadership almost a year ago. If a company engages in unfair or deceptive tactics, the government may take enforcement action against it.

Digital advertisement providers are less able to precisely target their advertising and demonstrate that the ads result in sales due to Apple’s decision last year to mandate that applications on its iOS platform ask the user for permission before accessing the device’s identifier. Facebook and Instagram’s parent company, Meta Platforms Inc., predicted earlier this year that Apple’s shift would reduce revenue by almost $10 billion by 2022.

Furthermore, according to the legislators’ letter, if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, those seeking abortions will be more exposed to privacy damages. In the letter, they wrote that prosecutors in areas where abortion is outlawed would soon have access to warrants that will allow them to learn the exact location of anybody who has visited an abortion facility. State bounty legislation will also encourage private actors to track down women who have had or are considering getting an abortion by giving them access to location data via data brokers, they added.

In 2021, a Singapore-based digital-advertising business located in Atlanta, known as Mobilewalla, said in a letter to Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) last week that it had indirectly contributed to some of the data used by DHS, the IRS, and the U.S. military for warrantless surveillance of devices at home and overseas. Mr. Wyden’s office, investigating location brokers, sent The Wall Street Journal the letter.

Moreover, in the said letter, they argued that the FTC should look into how Apple and Google helped turn internet advertising into a ruthless surveillance system that encourages and makes it easier to collect Americans’ personal information continually.

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