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US Senators Request the FTC look into Apple and Google’s Mobile Tracking Practices

They talked about how the data might be used against those who want abortions.

The Federal Trade Commission is being urged by a group of Democratic senators to look into Apple and Google’s data harvesting practices for mobile users. Senators Ron Wyden, Elizabeth Warren, Cory A. Booker, and Sara Jacobs accuse the tech companies of “engaging in unfair and deceptive practices by permitting the capture and sale of hundreds of millions of mobile phone users’ personal data” in a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan. The corporations “facilitated these unethical practices by embedding advertising-specific tracking IDs into their mobile operating systems,” the authors continued.

In their letter, the senators made explicit notice of how individuals seeking abortions will be especially exposed if their data, particularly their location information, is gathered and shared. They drafted the letter just before Roe v. Wade was definitively rejected by the Supreme Court, making abortion unlawful right away in states with trigger legislation. They clarified that data brokers currently market the geographic locations of persons who frequent abortion clinics. The senators also emphasized how “bounty hunter” laws that target women seeking abortions have encouraged private citizens to use that information.

Google and Android both have tracking IDs that are employed in advertising. The senators claimed that even though the identifiers are meant to be anonymous, data brokers are selling databases that connect them to customer names, email addresses, and phone numbers. Apple updated iOS last year with tougher privacy controls for app monitoring, forcing apps to get users’ consent before collecting their unique Identification for Advertisers device code.

They said that Google continues to allow the tracking identity by default. However, the business has already made features to make it more difficult to track users between apps, and it has promised to improve Android’s Privacy Sandbox “with the goal of delivering new, more private advertising alternatives.”

According to the IT giant, Ars Technica: “Google never sells user information, and Google Play rigorously forbids developers from doing so. Any accusations that the creation of advertising ID enabled the sale of data are just untrue.”

The MPs claimed that despite the corporations’ responses, harm had already been done. Now, they’re requesting that the FTC look into how Apple and Google “transformed online advertising into an aggressive system of surveillance that incentivizes and supports the unfettered collecting and constant sale of Americans’ personal data.”

Last month, Google was advised to stop gathering and retaining location data that could be used against people who have had or are considering having abortions by Wyden and 41 other Democratic lawmakers. Recent requests for the corporation to “cut down on misleading search results” that direct people looking for abortions to anti-abortion clinics were made by a different group of senators led by Sen. Mark Warner and Rep. Elissa Slotkin.

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