Google questioned by Congress over Sensorvault location database

CNET | 4/23/2019 | Richard Nieva
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Congress wants answers from Google about a database that law enforcement has been using for location data to help with criminal investigations.

The database, called Sensorvault, has detailed location records from hundreds of millions of phones around the world, according to a report earlier this month from the New York Times. It's meant to collect information on the users of Google's products so the company can better target them with ads and see how effective those ads are. But police in cities across the US have been using "geofence" warrants to tap the database for information that could help them when cases go cold.

Tuesday - Democrats - Republicans - House - Energy

On Tuesday, top Democrats and Republicans from the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent an open letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai asking for more information about the database.

The members of Congress -- including Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, a Democrat from Jew Jersey, and ranking Republican Greg Walden -- asked for answers from Google by May 7 and a briefing by May 10. Among the inquiries: Who's able to access Sensorvault information, and what kind of controls consumers have over the data?

Ramifications - Consumer - Privacy - Concerning - Letter

"The potential ramifications for consumer privacy are far reaching and concerning," the letter says. "We would like to know the purposes for which Google maintains the Sensorvault database and the extent to which Google shares precise location information from this database with third parties."

Google didn't directly address the letter from Congress, but a spokesman said the company collects the data for a feature called Location History, which lets people view where they've been on Google Maps and is turned off by default.

User - Information - Real-time

"If a user chooses to turn it on, we can provide helpful information, like real-time...
(Excerpt) Read more at: CNET
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