Senate iPhone hearing preview: Don't single out only apps

At tomorrow's Senate hearing on location privacy, the Association for Competitive Technology is planning to say that any new law should be broad and not single out mobile app developers.

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
2 min read
Jonathan Zuck, president of the Association for Competitive Technology.
New privacy laws should not single out only mobile app developers, a trade association representing small software companies is planning to tell a Senate committee tomorrow.

Jonathan Zuck, president of the Association for Competitive Technology, said in an interview with CNET this afternoon that any legislation arising out of the recent controversy over Apple iPhones and location tracking should be broad, not narrow. (See a list of related stories.)

"If you're going to put some privacy legislation in place, it shouldn't be some piecemeal regulation of some small portion of the technology industry because it's new and interesting," Zuck said. "It should deal with data itself."

Sen. Al Franken, the Minnesota Democrat who heads a subcommittee on privacy and technology, convened tomorrow's hearing in response to reports that mobile devices made by Apple, Google, and Microsoft either store location data or transmit it to remote servers and sometimes both. Apple has posted a list of questions and answers about the iPhone's controversial location-history database and said a bug fix would be released soon.

Zuck is testifying along with Bud Tribble, Apple's vice president for software technology; Alan Davidson, Google's U.S. director of public policy; and representatives from the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice. Microsoft will not be making an appearance.

The Association for Competitive Technology represents more than 3,000 small and mid-size tech companies and a smaller number of large ones, including eBay, Microsoft, Oracle, Orbitz, and Verisign.

Zuck says any laws targeting only smaller businesses, without taking a far-reaching look at electronic privacy in general, would be a mistake. "You're creating data every time you go through an EZ-Pass stop," he says. "You create data when you use OnStar. You create data when you order something from Amazon.com and have it delivered via FedEx."

In other words, he believes, it's a mistake to target only specific categories of location-collection. "What is the point of regulating some new technology as long as it doesn't regulate the data that's in question?"

While no specific location privacy bill has appeared as a result of last month's privacy flap, there have been calls for a Federal Trade Commission investigation, and unrelated "do not track" legislation was introduced today. And Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, has drafted legislation that would curb warrantless access to location histories by police (see CNET Q&A with Wyden).