Two federal law-enforcement officials today joined the growing criticism of the mobile device and mobile application industries, saying more action is likely needed to protect data about users' whereabouts and other sensitive information.
Jason Weinstein, a deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s criminal division, said DOJ is preparing a package of anti-computer-crime ideas that will relate to mobile privacy. The package is “imminent as measured by days instead of weeks,” he said, and could inform Congress as lawmakers prepare proposals of their own.
Weinstein and Jessica Rich, deputy director of the Federal Trade Commission’s bureau of consumer protection, gave their views during a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s privacy and technology subcommittee. Senators called the hearing after concerns arose last month about the security of location data gathered by Apple Inc., Google Inc. and others.
Laws about the sharing of such data were written primarily to protect users from unauthorized intrusion by the government, the two officials told lawmakers.
By contrast, there is no federal statute restricting what private companies can do with information about where a customer or other person has been. “If you’re talking about location data, then there’s no legal restriction,” Weinstein said. The Justice Department, he added, believes Congress should examine whether current law “properly strikes that balance” between protecting privacy and promoting innovation.
In her testimony, Rich pushed lawmakers to take into account a staff report the FTC issued in December that called for several industry changes, including a greater focus on potential privacy concerns during research and development.
“At the very early stages of developing their products and services, they have to give privacy serious thought,” Rich said. “That means, not retaining more data than is needed, not keeping it for longer than it’s needed, making sure it’s secure.”