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Takeaways from Apple’s Location Data Privacy Incident

Last week two O’Reilly analysts posted a video explaining that Apple’s iOS 4, the operating system used on the iPhone and iPad, contained code that automatically logged a variety of time-stamped data that could be used to pinpoint where a device had been.This would allow someone with access to this data to construct a detailed picture of the device’s location history. Notably, the phone did not log GPS location data, but instead recorded location-related data based on cell towers and wifi networks. Neither has there been any evidence presented to date that this data was transferred to a third-party, such as Apple, a mobile application developer, or an advertiser. Apple has yet to respond to requests for comment from major news outlets or to provide more information about this specific issue; however, Apple has already provided a detailed memo outlining how it uses location-based data. Apple has not yet confirmed whether this memo still accurately reflects their data collection and use policies.

Even though there is no evidence of actual wrongdoing or harm, policymakers have already jumped into the fray. Rep. Edward Markey has called for a Congressional investigation into

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Create a Data Policy Office Not a Privacy Policy Office

While consumers have a vocal advocate for increased privacy regulation in the federal government with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), they currently lack an advocate for reducing barriers to the free flow of information. To remedy this, the Department of Commerce, whose mission it is to advance economic growth, jobs and opportunities for all Americans, should become the champion of pro-innovation information policies, rather than focus on the more narrow issue of consumer privacy at the expense of other goals.

This lack of focus by the Department of Commerce can be seen in one of the recommendations in the Internet Policy Task Force’s recent green paper “Commercial Data Privacy and Innovation in the Internet Economy: A Dynamic Policy Framework” which calls for creating a Privacy Policy Office (PPO). As described in the report, the purpose of the PPO would be to 1) act as a convener of diverse stakeholders, and 2) serve as a source of expertise on privacy policy for the administration.

The Task Force writes:

…we recommend establishing a Privacy Policy Office (PPO) in the Department of Commerce. The PPO would continue the work of the

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Cover Your Bits, It’s Data Privacy Day!

In case you missed the announcement, today is Data Privacy Day, the once-a-year “international celebration of the dignity of the individual expressed through personal information.” While this annual event does not generate the same level of excitement among the masses as other esoteric holidays like International Talk Like A Pirate Day or Pi Day, its relative importance will likely eclipse these celebrations in the near future for the simple reason that the shear amount of personal data that has migrated to the digital world is reaching staggering proportions. Today people regularly share many types of sensitive personal information, including financial, health and location data, with individuals and businesses for a variety of purposes and for various reasons. Data Privacy Day is a good time to remind policymakers that this steady flow of data should not be treated as a leak that must be staunched, but as a wellspring of innovation that should be cultivated.

The ability to more easily store, manipulate and transmit data has been at the root of the IT transformation of the last few decades. While this steady flow of data into the digital ether

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