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tv   The Communicators  CSPAN  May 14, 2011 6:30pm-7:00pm EDT

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friends and neighbors go through this time, but people of our state are coming together to lend a helping hand to do what needs to be done. i am proud to represent people who care so deeply about their community. their perseverance and strength only motivates me more as the representative in congress. i could not let this critical moment pass without asking to ensure -- without acting to ensure the american dream is alive and well for our children and grandchildren. thank you for listening. >> you are looking at the opening of the spillway on the mississippi river as flooding continues. the army corps of engineers are diverting water from baton rouge, norland, and chemical refineries along the lower reaches of the river. officials said the process of releasing the pressure on the
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flood gates and levies will happen bit by bit over the coming weeks. the crest of the flooding is expected to hit this area on may 22 and could last up to 10 days. >> sunday on newsmakers -- energy and natural resources chairman senator jeff bingaman. that is at 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. eastern here on c-span. >> this week on the communicators -- a look at cellphone privacy. there are reports that googles and apple smart phones could be tracking users without their knowledge. >> this weeks of the first ever congressional hearing on phone
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tracking the senate subcommittee on privacy, technology, and the law held hearing. that is our topic. joining us, paul kirby, senior editor at "telecommunications reports." were apple and google on the hot seat? >> they were. particularly apple. there has been a lot of controversy. a lot of members of the house and senate spoke. they were on the hot season. senator al franken, the new chairman of this new committee -- they had to answer questions about what their practices are and what they do and what they don't do. >> who discovered that the smart phones were capable of doing this? >> the companies would say the discovery was something that occurred along, but research
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recently realized that tracking goes on. there are stories about tracking and what location information is used for. members of congress had been told as early as a few weeks ago. the company said, well, the information is used for services consumers want. they want to know where the nearest mcdonald's is. they want to know where their kids are. the question is, how is the information used? do consumers know it is being used? one of the things that this hearing shows, a lot of players are in the ecosystem and not all of them fall under particular laws. there really are no laws that cover all of its, location- based information. >> let's look get out franken's opening statement. >> today we are looking at a
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specific kind of information that i do not think we are doing enough to protect, and that is data from mobile devices, smart phones, tablets. this technology gives us incredible benefits. let me say that. let me repeat that. technology gives us an incredible benefits. it allows parents -- and allows parents to which their kids goodnight halfway around the world, and allows all lost driver to get directions, it allows an emergency services to locate a crashed driver in seconds. the same information that allows responders to locate us when you're in trouble is not necessarily information all of us want to share all the time with the entire world. yet, the report suggests the information on our mobile devices is not being protected in the way it should be. in december, an investigation by "the wall street journal," of
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the 100 apps for iphone found that 47 used the smart phone location to third-party companies, and most of them without the user's consent. a few weeks ago, it was discovered iphones and ipads gathered information about the user's location up to 100 times a day, storing that information on the phone or tablets and copying it to every computer it is san suu -- synced to. it was also determined that android phones were sending this information back to apple and google even when people were not using location applications. in each of these cases, users did not have any idea what was
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happening, and once they learned about it, they had no way to stop it. this breach of privacy can have real consequences for real people. a justice department report based on 2006 data shows that each year over 26,000 adults are stalked through the use of gps devices, including gps devices on mobile phones. that is 2006 when there were as -- there were a third as many smart phones as there are today. >> he makes an interesting point. a lot of it is that congress does not keep up with the technology on a daily basis. what they do, it usually follows the technology. in this case, as he pointed out at the hearing, there are no laws for location-based services. there are laws from the 1980's, 1990's. they are out of date. the senator and others and house
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members have to create legislation that will cover location-based services, widespread security legislation that would say -- here is a breach of location-based services. you have to notify people. there is no national framework. hearing the representatives of justice, the federal trade commission talk about the need for that legislation. >> the federal government did all agree that some kind of federal law is needed? >> yes. >> what was the mood from other members of the committee? >> i believe the mood was similar. the chairman of the full committee, senator leahy, made comments similar to senator frank anden's. he is working on an update of
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the electronic communications privacy act. so, i think there are a lot of comments made to senator franken. >> one thing that he said in the opening statement -- transmitting data to the third party is. who are the third parties? >> that could be anyone in the system. u.s. applications. a lot of companies that might be involved in creating applications or actually application developers, to make extra revenue, could transmit that data to other people for marketing purposes. a lot of the location-based services focus on making money off where people are. if you are walking by
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starbucks, we have a coupon on your phone. come in and get a latte. the problem is the application developers, they do not fall under the laws characterized by the federal communications commission. the four carriers can take identifiable information of a person and use it for commercial purposes, they have to get permission of that person. but operating system makers and application developers do not fall under that regime. as he sat at that hearing, you could have someone sell it to someone, sell it to someone, sell it to someone. how do you ask for consent? is it opt in or opt out? is it the end of a nine-page privacy agreement? they did not actually read it.
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>> here is an exchange with senator franken. >> last month by asked apple why it was building a comprehensive -- i asked apple why it was building a comprehensive database on iphones and ipads and storing it on computers. their reply to my letter will be added to the record. but this is what steve jobs said to the press. "we build a kraft source database of wi-fi hot spots, but those could be 100 miles away from where you are. those are not telling you anything about your location." yet in a written statement, apple claimed this very same data will "help your iphone rapidly and accurately calculate its location."
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or as the associated press summarized it "the data helps the phone figure out its location," apple said. but steve jobs said those are not telling you anything about your location. it does not appear to me that both these statements can be true at the same time. does this data -- does this data -- you are anticipating my question, so i will just ask it. does this data indicate anything about your location or does it not? >> senator, the data that is stored in the database is the location of as many wi-fi hot spots and self and towers as we can have. the data does not contain any customer information at all.
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it is completely anonymous. it is only about the cell phone towers and hot spots. when a portion of that data it is downloaded to your phone, your phone knows yourhot spots and towers it can receive now. so the combination, it is how the fund figures out where is without the -- how your phone figures out where it is without a the gps. >> soon after that, one of the witnesses -- he said basically, the data can locate the phone quite accurately. apple and there's even in april said in some cases there are cell phone towers 100 miles
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away. in urban areas, it is pinpoint accuracy. again, apple would say, yes, but if people want the services, how are they going to get these services if we do not know where they are? there is a concern. they say that they do not track the customers. the concern is they need the information to do things this way because the customers want them to. >> here is a telecommunications consultant. basically what you just said, but here he is. >> is it accurate? isn't anonymous? can it be tied back to individual users? >> that is a great question. yes, and in many cases, the location this data refers to is actually the location of your
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device. while it is true in some rural areas this could be up to 100 miles away, in practice for the average consumer, it is actually much closer. on the order of 100 feet according to the developer of this technology, skyhook. if you look at my testimony, you can see an example of this information via wi-fi geolocation services. i took my location based on the wi-fi signal in the senate lobby. the dot on the left refers to my location. the dots on the right to determine my location based on the 5wi-fi -- the wi-fi system. that was about 25 feet away.
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depending on how you want to slice it, i would call that my location. these wi-fi access points could be used to trace a trail about you. what arekirby, timespans? >> a person could use that to find out where you are now. law-enforcement use of location data came up as well they could use this to pursue a criminal, to find out where they are at a point in time. >> is this big business for these cell phone manufacturers? the tracking ability? >> then make the phone. the big business -- the carriers make a lot of money off it. some of the applications are
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marketed through the carrier. a number of the carriers and the cellphone makers have app stores, and you can buy youapps -- buy these apps, and they get a cut of days. there's a lot of money being made by the application makers and the makers of the operating system. this is jonathan zack, the president of the association for competitive technology, and he pointed out the market could go up to $50 billion in apps in a year. the chairman of the sec pointed out just a few years ago -- fcc pointed out just a few years ago -- now there are hundreds of thousands of apps in the apple store. >> did anyone defend the
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practice of geptracking, and can you -- geotracking, and can you turn them off? >> you have to give consent to turn on. they both said that you could turn off relatively easily. they could track your movements for some purpose. they did talk, people want these applications. they are not being forced to download these applications. they are paying for them. is dps ort applications for coupons and things like that -- is a popular applications. >> google was rep -- was represented by allen davis. >> here is how it works. when i first came out of my --
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when i first took my phone out of the box, one of the first questions it asked me was whether or not to share information data sharegoogle.-- share information data with google. if the user does not turn in on, the fund will not send any information data back to google. if they do often, it is anonymous and not traceable to a specific user or the vice and users can usually -- or device and users can turn it off. they will be notified it is assessing location information. the user has the opportunity to cancel installation. we believe this approach is essential for location services. highly transparent information for users about what is being collected, how the information
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is collected, and high security standards. our position is they should be the standard for the broader industry. we are doing this because of our belief in the importance of a location-based services. many of you are realizing the benefits of this technology. these services can be lifesavers. mobile communications can help you find the nearest hospital or police station. they can help you fill a prescription at 1:00 a.m. for a sick child. google is working with the national center for missing and exploited children to explore how to spread amber alerts about missing children in the vicinity, and it can be used to warn people in the path of a
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tornado or tsunami. >> mr. kirby. >> as he pointed out, there are a lot of safety operations for these, and the representative from the department of justice pointed out -- the concern would be someone who wants to do harm to a wife or husband, the technology can also be used to find the people who could be doing the stocking. the department for of some pointed out. -- the department person pointed out. it as soon as you do not have to give your permission for 911 services. the location of your phone is important in terms of if you have an emergency as well. >> can you opt in and opt out at will, as far as getting your location trapped? >> apple says they have an opt
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out policy. basically, you can opt out. it will be collected unless you opt out of it. alan davidson says google's is locked in. but help secure is the data being used? apple said recently they had a bug and in their system. even if you had your phone on off, at your location is being collected. they said if you down loaded up hatch, that could be turned off. they say when they do their next major update, that information will be interested. ed so some members of congress said, ok, you're making some progress, but there are a lot of questions still.
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how secure is the information? the other concern s -- is hacking and cyber hacking. basically, it is one big world of a pc and mobile device, if you will. it is one big internet. >> what does it say that this has been known for a while and congress is just now hearing about it? >> because apps are so big now. most of the revenues were coming in -- now basically a third of the revenues are coming in from data. part of the reason there is a spectrum crunch, according to the fcc and others, is that people are using these data applications. smart phones became so popular.
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it used to be there were very expensive and they cost more. they were on the higher in market. now, projections show that more than half, well over half people with smart phones -- in these days almost everyone seems to have a smart thumb. >> senator cockburn is a ranking member on the judiciary -- senator coburn is a ranking member on the judiciary committee. here's his opening statement. >> we need to be careful. we spent $64 billion a year on i.t. experiments and tens of billions on security daily. we should not be requesting a standard we cannot live up to at the federal government. the concern is an accurate one, but i think we have to work on what that standard would be, whether it is good or it is
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something. we know almost every system in the world can be breached today. we need to be careful how far we are carrying a map. >> he is talking to the federal trade commission. no one is saying it is perfect. no one is saying there is perfection in the cyberworld. basically, there is a standard where you have to take reasonable measures to protect data, and they are saying if you do not take those measures, there could be some sort of liability. senator coburn is known as being a real hawk on the budget. in his opening comments, which was interesting, he said we need to gather more information
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before we draw conclusions about what needs to be done. he is much more willing to say that in the democrats on the panel. >> this is a partisan issue then? >> i would not say it is necessarily partisan. the democrats are much more eager to move forward. in the house, both republicans and democrats -- joe barton, they have concerns about location-based data. i guess i would say no, it is not partisan. members of both parties are concerned about it. >> our future hearing scheduled? >> i think we can expect future hearings. senator franken has not said there will be future hearings. i think when -- i think we can expect hearings in both houses
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this year. >> was there any talk about the shape of legislation. >> the other thing we are waiting for is the obama administration coming forward. they just said in a hearing there will be technology aspects to it. much farther than just location based. they want to update the electronic communications privacy act. they want to do that in fairly short order. there will be data breach legislation introduced. again, those are location based and mobile. >> is there a mood in congress.
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-- is there a mood in congress? >> emitted is the deficit. -- the mood is the deficit. what't like to predict they may do, but it is definitely a hot topic. there is pushed back from the apples and googles of the world. >> members of the house committee were asking what were you doing, and guess what? we do not have control of all the things people download onto their phones. i guess there is pushback, but some companies realize.
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there is no national framework. there is concern that there are too many laws to have to follow. the companies say he needs some sort of reasonable framework. >> paul kirby is a senior editor of telecommunications report. thank you for framing this phone tracking hearing this week. by the way, if you want to watch the entire hearing, you can go to and watch the video. joining us on the phone, our correspondent from the wall street journal. she broke the story this week on meredith baker. what was the story you wrote? >> she is leaving the fcc to
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join comcast. >> was this a surprise? >> a lot of folks thought she would be renominated for the agency. she had only been there for two years. i think this was a surprise. >> were there any conflicts of interest in the last couple of months that people should be aware of? >> she did vote for comcast's deal to acquire nbc-universal. that is raising eyebrows around town, although it is not illegal for her to go there. she would not be able to lobby the agency for a certain amount of time. this kind of revolving door happens in d.c. a lot and this is another example of it. >> of the former head of the ncta is the chief of the comcast washington bureau, correct? washington bureau, correct?


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