In a Feb. 21 letter to Google CEO and co-founder Larry Page, Johnson cited three major concerns: physical harm to consumers and chilling speech, threats to children’s safety online, and the security of personal information.
According to published reports, when consumers purchase an app through Google Play, Google sends the consumer’s personal information – name, physical address, and e-mail address – to the app developer.
“Sharing certain personal information like physical address may harm consumers,” Johnson wrote. “In the past, unscrupulous sellers have used physical addresses to threaten consumers who posted negative reviews of products or services online.”
Johnson, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said sharing of this information with developers is unique to Google Play. Because the information includes a physical address, Johnson said it potentially threatens the physical and financial safety of consumers while chilling speech and criticism online.
Johnson, who represents District 4, which includes portions of DeKalb, Rockdale, Newton and Gwinnett counties, referred to the mobile economy as “one of the fastest-growing industries in recent memory.”
He also noted that the industry must strike a balance between innovation and responsibility when broad data-sharing gives rise to consumer harm.
“Congress’ strong interest in preventing consumers’ privacy rights from being violated is equal to the interests of the mobile ecosystem in building consumer trust,” he wrote.
Through AppRights, a mobile privacy initiative, Johnson has heard from many consumers who want greater transparency, control and security on mobile devices.
Google has come under fire on data sharing and privacy issues before.
In 2011, it reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission after the FTC alleged it had violated users’ privacy with its social network Buzz. In 2012, Google paid $22.5 million to settle charges for bypassing privacy settings of millions of Apple users.
Facebook also has drawn criticism for how it shared information with app developers.
To read Johnson’s entire letter, visit http://hankjohnson.house.gov.