FTC's Bedoya Urges Curbs On Location Data

The Federal Trade Commission's newest member, Alvaro Bedoya, has fired a warning shot to companies that collect location data.

“I think that any company that collects, retains, or uses location data should think hard about how to better protect their users,” Bedoya said Wednesday in a speech to the National Association of Attorneys General Presidential Summit.

Bedoya added that he plans to ask those companies whether they need to collect that information, why they're using it, and what more they could do to safeguard users.

“In 2022, our geolocation technology is not under control,” he said. “There is a large, unregulated market for this data.”

He added that the commercial availability of location data can threaten people in numerous ways, including by putting their livelihoods at risk.



In the written version of his remarks, he cited a 2021 story about a priest who resigned after a religious publication obtained location data showing that he used the Grindr dating app.

Bedoya added that the “lack of location privacy” poses a threat to “people who must make deeply private choices about their bodies and their families” -- obviously referencing concerns that law enforcement authorities will draw on location data to prosecute women who seek abortions.

Bedoya, who previously was the founding director of the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law, also addressed well-publicized concerns that social media could be harming children and teens.

He said he wants to avoid a “moral panic,” and noted that some studies show only a correlation -- as opposed to causation -- between social media use and mental health issues.

But, he said, “there is enough here that we need to know more.”

“And so, when we meet with social media and messaging companies, we need to ask them: What exactly do you do to keep children and teenagers online?” Bedoya said. “Why are you using these techniques? What do you know about how it affects kids and teens? And what are you doing to prevent harm?”

Next story loading loading..