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National Women’s Law Center

Franken Introduces Geolocation Privacy Bill

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WASHINGTON June 16, 2011- Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), along with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), introduced a bill Wednesday that would make rules more stringent for collecting geolocation data on mobile device users.

The Location Privacy Protection Act of 2011 would require companies to obtain users’ expressed consent to collect location data and to notify users when they share location data with third parties.

According to the bill’s sponsors, it would close loopholes in the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the Video Privacy Protection Act.

“Geolocation technology gives us incredible benefits, but 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,” said Sen. Franken. “This legislation would give people the right to know what geolocation data is being collected about them and ensure they give their consent before it’s shared with others.”

The legislation comes in response hearings held in April, called, “Protecting Mobile Privacy: Your Smartphones, Tablets, Cell Phones and Your Privacy.” During those proceedings, witnesses from Apple and Google testified that users constantly send geolocation data to various companies through a series of applications.

In January 2009, a special report by the Department of Justice revealed that approximately 26,000 persons are victims of GPS stalking annually, including by cellphone.

The bill received support from the Center for Democracy and Technology, Consumers Union, the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the National Women’s Law Center, along with others.

“This legislation is a strong step toward ensuring that consumers’ geolocation information is protected from being collected and stored without their consent,” said Sen. Blumenthal. “As smartphone technology continues to advance, it is vitally important that we keep pace with new developments to make sure consumer data is secure from being shared or sold without proper notification to consumers.”

 

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