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US congressional leaders query Google on tracking database

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The top Democrats and Republicans on the US House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday wrote Google chief executive Sundar Pichai raising concerns about reports of a massive database known as Sensorvault containing precise consumer location information on hundreds of millions of devices.

[WASHINGTON] The top Democrats and Republicans on the US House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday wrote Google chief executive Sundar Pichai raising concerns about reports of a massive database known as Sensorvault containing precise consumer location information on hundreds of millions of devices.

The letter seeks a briefing and answers on how this information is used and shared, citing a New York Times report that the database includes nearly every consumer with an Android mobile device, in some cases storing information dating to 2009.

Alphabet Inc, Google's parent, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The letter is one of several sent by members of Congress raising concerns about how Google or other big Internet companies use information they have gathered about consumers.

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The letter, which was signed by Democratic Representatives Frank Pallone and Jan Schakowsky and Republicans Greg Walden and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, asked Google who has access to the Sensorvault database and which Google services or apps collect the information. Pallone and Walden are the top members of the House Committee on Energy & Commerce.

The lawmakers asked for answers to their questions as well as a briefing on the issue by May 10.

They also asked Google if information is collected from consumers who requested that their data not be shared and asked to be briefed on any third parties, other than law enforcement, given access to location data.

Google, Facebook, Twitter and other free online services rely on advertising for revenue and use data collected on users to more effectively target those ads.

Congress has long been expected to take up privacy legislation after California passed a strict privacy law that goes into effect next year.

Two US senators introduced a bill in early April that would ban online social media companies like Facebook and Google from misleading consumers in order to convince them to give up personal data.

The bill from Mark Warner, a Democrat, and Deb Fischer, a Republican, would also ban online platforms with more than 100 million monthly active users from designing addicting games or other websites for children under age 13.

REUTERS