Illinois Passes Geolocation Privacy Bill

Illinois lawmakers on Tuesday passed a bill requiring app developers, ad networks and other online companies to obtain consumers' opt-in consent before collecting or disclosing information about their physical locations.

The Geolocation Privacy Protection Act, which appears to be the first location-privacy bill in the country, still awaits the signature of Gov. Bruce Rauner. The bill tasks the state Attorney General with enforcement, but doesn't empower consumers to file civil lawsuits against companies that violate the law's requirements.

"It moves us in the right direction," says privacy lawyer Ari Scharg, who heads the advocacy group Digital Privacy Alliance, which lobbied for the law. "This bill is all about transparency. Increasing transparency is a really good thing for consumers -- and businesses that are trying to compete against the behemoths in California."

More than a dozen tech startups in Illinois have so far signed an open letter supporting the bill. But some large business groups, including the Internet Association -- which represent Google, Facebook and other large Web companies -- oppose the measure.

The Internet Association said last month that the Illinois bill "would create costly, duplicative disclosure and consent requirements" for companies that want to use location data of state residents.

Lawmakers in Illinois are also considering a second privacy bill, the Right to Know Act, which would require Google, Facebook and other Web companies that collect personally identifiable information to disclose their data-sharing practices to users.

Illinois isn't the only state to mull new online privacy laws. Lawmakers in 18 other states also recently unveiled bills that would impose new obligations on companies that collect online data. Many of those measures were introduced after Congress repealed the Federal Communications Commission's nationwide privacy rules, which would have required broadband providers to obtain users' opt-in consent before drawing on their Web-browsing history for ad targeting purposes.

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