FCC is mealymouthed on privacy, even while calling Apple, Google to task

Notes importance of 'innovation' before 'privacy' announcing location-data privacy forum

The FCC – which has found itself unable to deal with the risk that consumers will be victimized by restrictive pricing and access rules from ISPs and wireless carriers – wants to make clear it is willing to speak politely to those carriers about whether cell phone location data might cause privacy problems.

It's not committed to the idea, of course. It forgives carriers such as Comcast for bandwidth-throttling Netflix and other competing services in order to maintain the quality of the services coming directly from Comcast and to foster innovation.

Unsurprisingly, it puts "innovation" before "privacy" even in the press release announcing the "public education forum" it is holding June 28.

"While the use of location data has spurred innovation, the FCC's National Broadband Plan recognizes that consumer apprehension about privacy can also act as a barrier to the adoption and utilization of broadband and mobile devices," according to the FCC's announcement..

The FCC invited both Google and Apple to the forum to discuss whether the kind of detailed, insecure location data collected by Apple iPhones and, it turns out, Google's Android OS and nearly every other smartphone operating system, could threaten the privacy of consumers carrying the phones.

[Spoiler alert: the answer is yes.]

"While the use of location data has spurred innovation, the FCC's National Broadband Plan recognizes that consumer apprehension about privacy can also act as a barrier to the adoption and utilization of broadband and mobile devices," the FCC said in a statement.

The forum follows public outcry about the Apple's location-tracking, whose security was tight enough to only encourage, rather than require, the iPhone to tap passersby on the shoulder and offer to give them detailed logs of where its owner had been.

Congress held several hearings and harrumphed loudly in response to public complaints.

So far there has been no real action from either the FCC or Capitol Hill.

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