Apple and Google head for Congress interrogation

Representatives from Apple and Google will both appear before a congressional hearing in Washington tomorrow where they will be grilled about the way in which smartphone users are tracked.

Both Apple's iOS and Google's Android operating system have come under public scrutiny after revelations of insidious tracking policies were outed in the tech and mainstream media, and now a judiciary subcommittee chaired by Democratic senator from Minnesota Al Franken will attempt to get to the bottom of the scandal.

Apple is expected to send its software VP Guy 'Bud' Tribble to Washington to re-iterate the Cupertino company's insistence that it isn't really tracking anyone. Steve Jobs personally denied that the company had done anything wrong, then blamed the collection of the scary tracking data on a software bug.

A recent update to iOS saw Apple restricting the amount of data collected as well as how the data is stored, and how it persists when hardware is updated.

Although a number of class action lawsuits have been initiated against Apple, no formal complaint investigation has been launched by the US Congress, and tomorrow's hearing will simply act as an information-gathering session which will determine whether further action is warranted.

Senator Franken has previously voiced concerns about the possibility of insurance companies using tracking data of customer movements to set premiums, so don't carry your smartphone if you're off on a trip to Cracktown.

Online tracking data could be worth billions of dollars in carefully targeted advertising revenue according to some analysts, but fears over privacy and Big Brother monitoring by government agencies have brought the issue to the fore.

Three privacy bills relating to the tracking of portable gadgets have already been proposed, all of which place the onus on the software or hardware developer to let consumers know exactly how they are being tracked.

The first hearing, 'Protecting Mobile Privacy: Your Smartphones, Tablets, Cell phones and your Privacy', starts tomorrow morning.