GAO-12-93, September 11, 2012
What GAO Found
Using several methods of varying precision, mobile industry companies collect location data and use or share that data to provide users with location-based services, offer improved services, and increase revenue through targeted advertising. Location-based services provide consumers access to applications such as real-time navigation aids, access to free or reduced-cost mobile applications, and faster response from emergency services, among other potential benefits. However, the collection and sharing of location data also pose privacy risks. Specifically, privacy advocates said that consumers: (1) are generally unaware of how their location data are shared with and used by third parties; (2) could be subject to increased surveillance when location data are shared with law enforcement; and (3) could be at higher risk of identity theft or threats to personal safety when companies retain location data for long periods or share data with third parties that do not adequately protect them.
by Aaron Brauer-Rieke, CDT, February 8, 2012
Against the backdrop of controversy surrounding the use of monitoring software pre-installed on mobile phones, Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) recently released a draft bill requiring clear disclosure and express consent before monitoring software is used. … Markey’s bill requires several kinds of companies to clearly disclose details about monitoring software and obtain express consent before putting such software to use. The entities obligated to observe these requirements are those that (1) sell mobile phones, (2) provide commercial mobile services, (3) manufacture phones, or (4) operate a “website or other online service from which a consumer downloads monitoring software.” The bill also requires the user to consent to the software’s operation before it can begin collecting and transmitting information. …
For a summary and analysis of this bill by the Center for Technology and Democracy, visit Bill Requires Permission for Mobile Monitoring Software | Center for Democracy & Technology.
- Congressman Proposes Legislation to Outlaw Mobile Device Snooping (techland.time.com)
- Lawmaker Pushes Consumer Notification Bill in Wake of Carrier IQ Concerns (pcworld.com)
- “Mobile Device Privacy Act” would prevent secret smartphone monitoring (arstechnica.com)
- New Mobile-Phone Privacy Law Proposed (wired.com)
By Tanzina Vega, NYT, August 14, 2011
For many Internet users, online privacy policies are long and difficult to read. Transfer those same policies to a mobile device, where users can find themselves clicking through multiple screens often with tiny type, and the policies can become almost useless to the average consumer.Yet those same policies govern how much user data is collected through mobile applications and how that data is shared with advertisers and other third parties. And with growing concern over data collection, including proposed legislation to more closely protect consumers, one company is trying to make privacy policies that are both easy for consumers to read and easy for mobile application developers to create. …
For full text of the article, visit Industry Tinkers to Create Privacy Tools for Mobile Devices – NYTimes.com.
- Industry Tries to Streamline Privacy Policies for Mobile Users (nytimes.com)
- Media Decoder Blog: In a First, F.T.C. Settles With App Developer Over Children’s Privacy (mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com)
- App-maker fined over kids’ privacy (politico.com)
- Apps Maker Settles Privacy Case (online.wsj.com)
Press Release, Sen. Franken, Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Today, U.S. Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.), chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced legislation that would require companies like Apple and Google, as well as app developers to receive express consent from users of mobile devices like smartphones and tablets before sharing information about those users’ location with third parties. The bill, called the Location Privacy Protection Act, would close current loopholes in federal law to ensure that consumers know what location information is being collected about them and allow them to decide if they want to share it.
“After listening to expert testimony at the hearing I chaired last month on mobile technology and privacy and hearing from anti-domestic violence groups in Minnesota who said this kind of technology can be exploited by abusers, I concluded that our laws do too little to protect information on our mobile devices,” said Sen. Franken. “Geolocation technology gives us incredible benefits, but the same information that allows emergency responders to locate us when we’re in trouble is not necessarily information all of us want to share with the rest of the world. This legislation would give people the right to know what geolocation data is being collected about them and ensure they give their consent before it’s shared with others.”
“This legislation is a strong step toward ensuring that consumers’ geolocation information is protected from being collected and stored without their consent,” said Sen. Blumenthal. “As smartphone technology continues to advance, it is vitally important that we keep pace with new developments to make sure consumer data is secure from being shared or sold without proper notification to consumers.”
The bill is endorsed by the Center for Democracy and Technology, Consumers Union, the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the National Center for Victims of Crime, National Consumers League, the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the National Women’s Law Center, and the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group.
To read a one-page summary of the legislation, click here.
The full text of the bill can be found here.
Emergency Management Blog – Eric Holdeman, May 22, 2011
Yesterday’s announcement that cell broadcast alerts will be available soon in New York City just touches the surface of a comprehensive plan. FEMA, the FCC, the Mayor of New York and cellular company executives announced that a program called PLAN, Personal Localized Alerting Network, will be launched in NYC late this year. … A number of important points:
1. The word “launch” is important. What was announced was that new mobile devices shipped to NYC will soon be equipped to receive the alerts. That doesn’t mean that all mobile devices will receive them…only new ones from participating carriers. (Most major carriers are participants.) …
For full text of article, visit Personal Localized Alerting Network Just Touches the Surface.