Republican congressman Joe Barton's claim that Apple apparently "lied" to him "and another lawmaker" last year when it responded to a letter he sent them about iPhone user location date is a front-page news article in today's Wall Street Journal.
The Journal leaves two questions unasked and unanswered: First, who was the other lawmaker? And second, what was Mr. Barton doing in the first place sending Apple interrogatory letters last year?
The answer to the first question is Congressman Ed Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, a member of that House Progressive Caucus that issued the Paul Krugman "People's Budget" aiming to double your taxes.
A copy of the June 24, 2010 Barton-Markey letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs is here. It gave Apple 18 days in the middle of the Summer to answer nine complex and tendentious questions, among them: "8. Who are the unspecified 'partners and licensees' with which Apple shares this location data, and what are the terms and conditions of such information sharing? How does this comply with the requirements of Section 222 of the Communications Act, which mandates that no consumer location information be shared without the explicit prior consent of the consumer?" and "9. Does Apple believe that legal boilerplate in a general information policy, which the consumer must agree to in order to download applications or updates, is fully consistent with the intent of Section 222, and sufficient to inform the consumer that the consumer's location may be disclosed to other parties? Has Apple or its legal counsel conducted an analysis of this issue? If yes, please provide a copy. If not, why not?"
Mr. Barton, who famously denounced President Obama's treatment of BP as a shakedown, was previously seen here threatening to haul Google executives up to Capitol Hill to testify. Mr. Barton's Web site features press releases with headlines like "EPA Overrregulation Is Crushing the American Economy." Yet when it's American technology companies rather than energy companies at issue, Mr. Barton is working hand-in-hand with Progressive Ed Markey to regulate them to the hilt.
I met Mr. Barton once and told him that he was right about the BP shakedown, and that he shouldn't have backed down on it when the Republican leadership pressured him. But whatever positive feelings I had about Mr. Barton following his BP comment are now gone after seeing how he's treating Apple and how he treated Google. The guy is a shakedown artist right up there with President Obama. It's one of the themes of this Web site: too often, both parties in Washington are for bigger government and against free markets.
Disclosure: I own some Google shares.