FTC urged to investigate Apple and Google ‘surveillance’

Democratic lawmakers want the FTC to investigate online ad trackers from Apple and Google, which they say constitute unfair and deceptive marketing practices and pose a risk to the privacy and security of people using mobile devices tech giants.

US Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) and House Representative Sara Jacobs (D-CA) called on Friday for the watchdog to launch an investigation on Apple and Google, hours before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, paving the way for individual states to ban access to abortions.

In the days leading up to the court action, some of those same lawmakers had also introduced data privacy bills, including a proposal that would ban data brokers from selling sensitive location and location information. health of medical treatment of individuals.

Last month, 16 Democratic senators urged the FTC to crack down on data brokers who buy and sell location information that could reveal clinic visits.

And in the most recent letter [PDF] At the FTC, the four lawmakers warned that data collected by Apple and Google smartphones, which includes customer locations and web browsing history, could expose women seeking abortions in a post-Roe America at higher risk.

There are concerns that such information – from location data and web searches to unencrypted emails and chat messages – could be obtained by prosecutors and lawyers to punish women in states where abortion is banned.

“Data brokers are already selling, licensing and sharing location information of people who visit abortion providers to anyone with a credit card,” according to the letter.

At press time, Apple and Google had not responded to The registerrequest for comment.

And we’re still awaiting news from these two tech giants, along with Meta, Amazon, Microsoft and Twitter, about what they’re doing to ensure the data they collect won’t be used to build a legal case. against women seeking to avoid forced childbirth or those offering abortion support.

While some of these companies have agreed to cover their employees’ out-of-state travel expenses for medical treatment, they have remained silent on what, if anything, they will change in their data privacy policies. now that abortion is not constitutionally protected. .

“Prosecutors in states where abortion becomes illegal will soon be able to obtain warrants for whereabouts information from anyone who has visited an abortion provider,” the letter to the FTC continues. “Private actors will also be incentivized by state bounty laws to track down women who have obtained or seek abortions by accessing location information through shady data brokers.”

Apple and Google’s iOS and Android mobile operating systems use advertising-specific tracking IDs that third-party data brokers and their customers can buy and sell, and link this information to other consumer data .

“Although purportedly anonymous, these advertising IDs can easily be linked to individual users,” the lawmakers wrote, adding that third-party companies sell databases that link these advertising IDs to names, emails and addresses. consumer personal.

Apple and Google allow people to opt out of tracking, though by not publicizing the effects of not doing so, the two companies have ‘exposed hundreds of millions of Americans to serious privacy breaches’ , indicates the letter.

“The FTC should investigate Apple and Google’s role in turning online advertising into an intense surveillance system that incentivizes and facilitates the rampant collection and constant sale of Americans’ personal data,” the lawmakers advised. . ®

About Nereida Nystrom

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