Lawmaker Vows to Defend Wireless Privacy, Hold Third-Party App Developers Accountable

A federal lawmaker said Thursday that third-party application developers can access the location of wireless customers anytime they wish and thats unacceptable.

This is a huge problem,” said Rep. Joe Barton (R.-Texas) in a statement after receiving responses from AT&T, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless about their data collection, storage and disclosure practices in relation to their customers personally identifiable information.

Barton, who requested the information along with his colleague Rep. Edward Markey (D.-Mass.), said that the mobile operators commonly obtain the consent of a customer before collecting information about the whereabouts of a subscriber.  However, he said the disconnect is when third-party applications come into play.”

Third-party developers, Barton said, shouldnt have free reign over your location data and personally identifiable information.”

I believe it is time we hold third-party developers accountable, and I am determined to work with other members of Congress to get this done,” added Barton, who serves as co-chairman of the House Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus alongside Markey.

Markey said the wireless operators responses provide important insights into how each company collects, uses and stores personal location data, including examples of how consumers can grant or withhold consent when location-based services are utilized.

Personal data should be made unreadable to those without a legitimate need to access it to the greatest extent possible, and the data should not be retained longer than absolutely necessary,” Markey added. Otherwise, there is a heightened risk of security breaches that expose consumers to identify theft and other crimes.”

Peter Davidson, Verizons senior vice president of federal government relations, commended Reps. Barton and Markey for addressing consumer privacy in the wireless market.

All participants in the wireless ecosystem, including third-party-applications developers, device manufacturers and operating system providers, must also bear responsibility for informing customers about their privacy and data protection policies,” Davidson said. While the new, open wireless environment has created a great opportunity for third parties to sell directly to wireless consumers, with that opportunity comes the responsibility to do so openly and honestly.”

Click here for links to the letters from the congressmen to the wireless providers and full copies of the wireless carriers responses.

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