New self-regulatory privacy standards issued Wednesday prohibit some companies that amass and analyze precise location data from collecting, using or sharing information that could reveal consumers' visits to abortion clinics, homeless shelters, jails or a host of other “sensitive” locales.
The new standards, put out by the self-regulatory group Network Advertising Initiative, apply to member companies the Network Advertising Initiative terms "location solutions providers" -- a category of around a dozen companies that compile and analyze location data that originated from mobile apps, according to David LeDuc, vice president for public policy at the organization.
He adds that the organization would like to see a broader array of members adopt the standards.
"We're hopeful it will be expanded, and as it gets more attention and support, that other entities will join in," he says of the new guidance.
The Network Advertising Initiative says the new standards are voluntary, but that it will enforce promises to follow them. Members that “choose to make a public commitment to follow these enhanced standards will be assessed for compliance,” the organization states.
“For these companies, and any affiliates under common control, a material violation of these Enhanced Standards will result in enforcement, and could ultimately result in sanctions ... in addition to potential Federal Trade Commission enforcement based on participating members’ public representations of compliance,” the organization adds.
As of Wednesday, the companies Cuebiq, Foursquare, and Precisely PlaceIQ have promised to follow the new standards, according to the Network Advertising Initiative.
The new guidance also prohibits some members from sharing precise location data for law enforcement or national security purposes -- unless necessary to comply with “a valid legal obligation.”
The organization is releasing the standards at a time when practices regarding location data are under intense scrutiny.
Last week, in anticipation of a Supreme Court decision reversing Roe v. Wade, lawmakers led by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) introduced the “Health and Location Data Protection Act,” which would prohibit data brokers from sharing any information about people's locations or health.
In May, five Senate Democrats urged Google and Apple to prohibit apps available in the Google Play store or the App store from sharing information that could be used against abortion seekers.
That request came soon after a draft of a Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, the case that established a constitutional right to abortion, was leaked to Politico.
Chief Justice John Roberts confirmed the authenticity of the draft, but said the opinion isn't yet final.
Even before that opinion leaked, elected officials and privacy advocates expressed concerns that data brokers were sharing information with law enforcement.
For instance, last year four lawmakers introduced federal privacy bill -- the Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act -- which would have limited agencies' ability to purchase information from data brokers.