Bill to Restrict Mobile Location Data Collection Introduced in the Senate

The Location Privacy Protection Act, introduced by U.S. Sens. Al Franken and Richard Blumenthal, seeks to require companies to inform users if and when location data is being collected by their mobile devices.

Two United States senators have introduced a bill that would require companies to explicitly get permission from mobile users before sharing location data with other third-parties.

The Location Privacy Protection Act would close loopholes in existing law, Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Richard Blumental (D-Conn.) said as they introduced the bill on June 15. The loophole refers to a clause in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 which allows wireless companies and app developers to share location data with just about anyone.

The information collected by geolocation technology can be both beneficial as well as dangerous, Franken said. The legislation won't stop companies from collecting the data, but would make it obvious. Users have the right to know what kind of information is being collected and organizations should make sure to gain consent before sharing the information with anyone else.

"The same information that allows emergency responders to locate us when we're in trouble is not necessarily information all of us want to share with the rest of the world," Franken said.

There has been a lot of concern about mobile devices collecting geolocation data, often without the user's consent and awareness. A group of developers came across an unencrypted file on the iPhone that contained information about cell towers nearest the device, and found they could figure out where the user has been. Franken wrote to Steve Jobs shortly after that information was publicized, expressing his concerns.

This article was originally published on 06-17-2011
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