Choose Your City
Change City

Facebook, Apple pressed on kids’ Internet privacy

Sen. John Rockefeller: Adults should be asked for consent of kids’ data-sharing.

A high-tech Wild West where location data, including some gleaned from teenagers’ mobile devices, is scooped up and sold without consumers’ consent needs to end, lawmakers told a panel of tech companies last week.

While lawmakers noted extraordinary technical innovation by Apple Inc., Google Inc., Facebook and others in Silicon Valley, they also showed irritation at the collection and sale of data without consent. Much of the ire was aimed at smartphone applications that collect teenagers’ data.

“A teenager accessing an application may not realize that her address book is being accessed and shared with a third party. That is not meant to happen in this country without the permission of an adult,” said Sen. John Rockefeller, chairman of the Commerce Committee.

Twenty percent of children age 11 or younger had a cell phone in 2009, while 66 percent had one by age 14 and just under 75 percent of high schoolers have one, according to a Pew Internet & American Life Project report.

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, which has had privacy battles of its own with controversy over Buzz and Street View among others, has been dragged in because it provides the guts of the Android phones.

But Google’s Alan Davidson warned lawmakers against focusing on headline issues and said they should instead hone in on establishing principles.

Senator Pat Toomey, the ranking Republican on the Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Internet subcommittee, noted that he was the father of two young children and was “very concerned,” while adding: “As a general matter, I prefer to see the market self-regulate.”

You Might Also Like