Sen. Blumenthal demands answers on Wi-Fi privacy

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The forty-state probe by attorneys general slowed after then Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal was elected to the U.S. Senate, but he clearly hasn't dropped his concerns.

In a letter this week to the chief executives of Microsoft, Google, Apple, Research in Motion, Skyhook Wireless and Nokia, Blumenthal writes that widespread use of smartphones "raises serious privacy concerns regarding the ways in which companies who own and operate them interact with the wider wireless (WiFi) internet…"

Blumenthal says his concerns are "most acute in the context of the Google Wi-Spy scandal, where Google was revealed to have spent three years using Google Maps 'Street View' cars to collect bits of users' emails, passwords, browsing history and other perusal information…"

Blumenthal's letter is accompanied by two pages of tough questions about the companies' Wi-Fi data gathering practices including such things as whether interception and/or storage of content data might be illegal under federal, state or foreign laws. Others ask why the companies gather the wireless data and all methods used or contemplated to do so.

I still think we need to get the companies' CEOs — not their top lobbyists and flacks — before a Senate or House committee and have them answer these questions under oath. Nonetheless, this letter and  Blumenthal's pointed questions to Google's Alan Davidson at a hearing last week are a good start.

John M. Simpson
John M. Simpson
John M. Simpson is an American consumer rights advocate and former journalist. Since 2005, he has worked for Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan nonprofit public interest group, as the lead researcher on Inside Google, the group's effort to educate the public about Google's dominance over the internet and the need for greater online privacy.

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