Think Tank Slams Location-Privacy Bill

Late last year, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a privacy bill by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) that would give smartphone users more control over their data. The proposed law would require app developers to obtain users' explicit consent before collecting or disclosing their geolocation data.

"Companies that collect our location information are not protecting it the way they should," he stated. At the time, he referenced several high profile privacy snafus, including reports stating that iPhones and Androids were sending users' location data to Apple and Google, and the  Carrier IQ debacle. Carrier IQ gained notoriety in 2011, after a researcher showed that its software could log keystrokes on mobile devices.

Franken intends to reintroduce the bill this year. But not everyone thinks the proposed law would mark a change for the better.

The think tank Information Technology and Innovation Foundation is arguing against the legislation, which it calls "particularly problematic for apps that are supported by location-based advertising."

ITIF says the bill would require an app to obtain users' consent each time the app starts working with a new ad network. ITIF says that requirement (and others) would result in unwieldy notices to consumers. "Many websites and apps already disclose this information in privacy policies. This legislation is at odds with efforts to simplify privacy policies for consumers since it requires a separate disclosure. ...If we continue down this path in the future we may have legislation requiring separate pop-up notice and consent requirements for every type of information collected and used by an app."

It's worth noting that ITIF itself doesn't appear to be especially averse to pop-ups. Last September, the group made headlines by adding a prominent notice -- that users must click to close -- informing people that it was rejecting their do-not-track requests.

2 comments about "Think Tank Slams Location-Privacy Bill".
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  1. Daniel Castro from ITIF, January 8, 2013 at 9:44 a.m.

    Hi Wendy,

    The point of the overlay notice about do-no-track on the ITIF website is to demonstrate that pop-ups are annoying but that we will likely see more of these with some of the more ridiculous privacy regulations being proposed. You can already see this on many UK websites that now require their users to accept their cookie policy before accessing their site. The point of technology is generally to making things easier and faster. Legislation like Franken's Location Privacy Act just moves us in the opposite direction.

  2. Steve MC from GRUNI , January 8, 2013 at 11:26 a.m.

    Daniel, its clear what side of the privacy fence you're on. Ridiculous is how I'd describe the ITIF's position on Franken's privacy bill. Its naive to think consumers will indefinately allow ad networks and less than transparent mobile application developers to keep profiting from their personal Information. Privacy policies are a thin veil as to how our data is being used for profit by online businesses. DO NOT TRACK legislation is coming. Its being driven by consumers. There is strength in numbers.

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