Apple VP Tribble to appear at Senate location privacy hearing

Apple VP Bud Tribble, who headed the original Macintosh software team in the 1980s, will be testifying at next week's Senate subcommittee hearing on mobile devices and privacy.

Declan McCullagh Former Senior Writer
Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. You can e-mail him or follow him on Twitter as declanm. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People's Money column for CBS News' Web site.
Declan McCullagh
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Bud Tribble, Apple's vice president for software technology, will testify at next week's hearing on mobile devices and privacy, a U.S. Senate committee said today.

Tribble is a Silicon Valley veteran whose resume includes co-founding NeXT Computer and heading the original Macintosh software team in the 1980s that designed the Mac user interface. (Here's an earlier interview he did with CNET about OS X security.)

Sen. Al Franken, the Minnesota Democrat who heads a subcommittee on privacy and technology, convened next Tuesday's hearing in response to reports that mobile devices either store location data or transmit it to remote servers, and sometimes both.

Google's U.S. director of public policy, Alan Davidson, is also scheduled to testify, as are representatives from the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Association for Competitive Technology. (See CNET's list of related articles.)

Last week, Apple posted a list of questions and answers that said the iPhone's controversial location-history database was a way to improve location services. Apple also acknowledged a "bug" that can cause an iPhone to store over a year of location data, and said it would be fixed in a forthcoming software update.

During a congressional hearing Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder said his department was aware of the issue.

"It is something that we will follow, and on the basis of that and other things that we are looking at, determine if there is appropriate action that we can be taking," Holder said in response to a question.

Privacy concerns arise when a unique device ID is transmitted, which lets a company track a customer's whereabouts over an extended period of time. Randomizing the device ID frequently, or not transmitting it at all, would alleviate some concerns.

Both Android and Windows Phone 7 devices appear to transmit unique IDs, at least in some cases, and Google and Microsoft have declined to elaborate on that point. For its part, Apple says the data is sent "in an anonymous and encrypted form" and "Apple cannot identify the source of this data."

No representative from Microsoft is scheduled to appear at next week's hearing.