Lawmakers Aim To Limit Stalker Apps, GPS Data Mining

June 17, 2011

Could data from your cellphone be obtained to see how much you speed? Could your music-streaming app be tracking where you listen to Lady Gaga, or your navigation app be dropping breadcrumbs and marketing your trail to businesses?

The answers might be a little surprising, as users of smartphones and other mobile devices have very little control today over who's grabbing data, and for what reason.

The Location Privacy Protection Act of 2011, introduced by Senators Al Franken and Richard Blumenthal, aims to make sure that all mobile-device users give consent to share their locations before they're collected and shared with third parties.

Apple already faced a firestorm from privacy advocates earlier this year when it was found that some iPhone applications asked users if they were willing to share their geographic location, while others simply pulled the data without approval. A Wall Street Journal investigation late last year found that 47 of the top 101 Android and iPhone applications tracked location data without asking for consent.

The Franken bill also specifies that those companies collecting data from more than 5,000 devices—so Apple, Google, and just about every device manufacturer or app developer—must take special security steps to maintain user privacy, as well as be able to delete all data if the user opts out.

Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Jason Chaffetz have also this past week introduced the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act, which helps specify for government agencies, companies, and individuals when geolocation data can or cannot be used.

[Wired]

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