US Senators Asking FTC To Investigate Google & Apple Data Practices

Google Logo 2018 AM AH 2 AH 2019

Some Democratic senators have sent a letter to the FTC chairman Lina Khan, asking for an investigation into Google and Apple efforts in collecting user data.

The Senate recently paid close attention to the Big Tech privacy and data practices. We regularly hear senators inviting these companies’ CEOs to a hearing or asking the FTC or similar agencies to investigate Big Tech. Now, Senators Ron Wyden, Elizabeth Warren, Cory A. Booker, and Sara Jacobs have asked FTC for an investigation into Google and Apple.

As per the report, these senators believe both companies are “engaging in unfair and deceptive practices by enabling the collection and sale of hundreds of millions of mobile phone users’ personal data.” Also, senators say these companies “facilitated these harmful practices by building advertising-specific tracking IDs into their mobile operating systems.”


Senators say the shared data can be used for targeting abortion seekers

In their letter, the senators referred to the collection and sharing of users’ location information by Google and Apple. This comes on the heels of overturning abortion rights by the US Supreme Court. Senators say data brokers collect and sell the data of those users who visit abortion providers. They claim bounty hunters can use this data to target the people looking for an abortion.

The US lawmakers previously asked Google to crack down on manipulative search results that direct abortion seekers to anti-abortion clinics.

Following the criticisms by privacy enthusiasts, Google and Apple both made it harder to track users. Google uses tracking identifiers, and Apple asks the apps to get user permission before tracking. However, senators say tracking identifiers by Google has been ineffective, and data brokers are selling databases linking them to consumer names, email addresses, and telephone numbers. Also, the tracking identifiers are enabled by default.


Google always rejects the allegations

The company always rejects such allegations, saying, “Google never sells user data, and Google Play strictly prohibits the sale of user data by developers… Any claims that advertising ID was created to facilitate data sale are simply false.”

Google also promised to refine Privacy Sandbox on Android to address private advertising solutions. However, none of these measures have addressed the senators’ concerns. The lawmakers are now asking FTC to check Google and Apple’s role in “transforming online advertising into an intense system of surveillance that incentivizes and facilitates the unrestrained collection and constant sale of Americans’ personal data.”

In recent years, Google and Apple have faced numerous lawsuits over their data practices. Recently, the European Union urged Google to stop its monopoly and let rival platforms run ads on YouTube.