A report from the Wall Street Journal showed that four Democratic lawmakers from the Federal Trade Commission want to investigate Google and Apple for collecting and selling personal information of their users.
According to the source, the lawmakers wrote in a letter to the chair of the Federal Trade Commission that Google and Apple “intentionally facilitated these harmful practices by creating ad-specific tracking identifiers in their mobile operating systems.”
However, the Wall Street Journal also highlights that the two companies have made improvements to limit user data collection. Apple , for example, has taken many different approaches with Sign in with Apple, App Tracking Transparency, and even a Privacy Report.
The committee’s letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan said the two companies failed to inform consumers of the privacy and security risks involved in using iOS and Android devices.
The letter also stated that both Google and Apple designed their mobile operating systems “to include unique tracking identifiers that they have specifically marketed for advertising purposes.”
Democrats said the identifiers led to an unregulated data market by creating a single piece of information that could be linked to a device. Data brokers and their clients can then use this information to find additional information about mobile users.
On the other hand, a Google spokesperson stated: “Google never sells user data, and Google Play strictly prohibits the sale of user data by developers.” In addition, Google Play has policies in place that prohibit the use of this data for purposes other than advertising and user analytics. Any claims that the advertising identifier was created to facilitate data sales are simply false.”
A Google representative said the advertising identifier was created to give users control and provide developers with a more private way to effectively monetize their apps.
In April, Google launched the Google Play Data Security section to give users more transparency into the information that apps collect.
The letter stated that data purchased or obtained from application developers and online advertisers could also include users’ web browsing activity and movements.
Also last year, Apple announced privacy changes in iOS, requiring each app to ask the user for permission to access the device ID while Google outlined plans to have developers disclose how user data is shared by apps.
The letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) acknowledged that Apple and Google had allowed consumers to opt out of tracking, but noted that the two companies were asking users to take steps to turn them off.
Apple has also enabled tracking ID by default and requires consumers to search “phone settings to turn it off,” the message states.
Google still enables tracking ID by default, and until recently “did not provide consumers with opt-outs,” according to the committee’s letter.
In the same vein, the lawmakers wrote: “It is time to put an end to the privacy damage these companies impose on users.”