Apple Promises Congress It Will Protect Users’ Data During Private Hill Meeting

Giuseppe Macri Tech Editor
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Apple is on a campaign this week to defend its reputation for privacy and security in the wake of the celebrity iCloud hack and newly announced mobile payment and health tracking apps — a campaign that reportedly included a stop on Capitol Hill Tuesday for a private meeting with lawmakers. (RELATED: Tim Cook Won’t Let Apple Be A ‘Treasure Trove’ Of User Data For NSA)

According to a panel invite from the House Energy and Commerce Committee obtained by Politico, Apple CTO Bud Tribble and health product officer Afshad Mistri gave a briefing to “provide an overview of Apple’s new offerings, demonstrate the new products and discuss how Apple sees this market developing,” as well as “discuss how the company intends to secure and store consumer health data.”

Last Tuesday the company announced several new products including the company’s new wearable Apple Watch, which features built-in sensors to track a range of consumer health data like heartbeat and physical activity. Apple also unveiled Apple Pay — a mobile payment system which will sync user accounts with credit cards and banks for quick, single-swipe payment. (RELATED: Five Things To Look Forward To From Apple’s Watch, iPhone 6 Launch Event)

Both systems have the potential to collect and use a large amount of private, individual consumer data, but Apple has assured the public since day one that not even the company will keep track of what users are buying, nor does it have plans for keeping or using large amounts of health data, according to CEO Tim Cook.

“Our business is not based on having information about you. You’re not our product. Our product are these, and this watch, and Macs, and so forth,” Cook said during a PBS interview aired Monday. “And so we run a very different company. I think everyone has to ask, how do companies make their money? Follow the money. And if they’re making money mainly by collecting gobs of personal data, I think you have a right to be worried. And you should really understand what’s happening to that data, and the companies — I think — should be very transparent.”

It’s not clear whether Apple gave a similar briefing to the upper chamber, but Democratic Sens. Jay Rockefeller of New York and Claire McCaskill of Missouri did send a letter to Cook two days after the product launch asking about the recent hack of private celebrity photos from owners’ iCloud accounts. Apple has since amped up security on its iCloud login system.

The senators also asked about Apple Pay and Watch, “which, among other things, enable the collection of consumer health data and encourage increased mobile commerce.”

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen wrote to Apple to make similar inquiries earlier this week, and asked for a meeting with the Cupertino-based company to express his privacy concerns. (RELATED: What Is Apple Planning To Do With Your Apple Watch Data?)

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