Friday, June 17, 2011

Legislating Location for an Online World

The Location Privacy Protection Act

I’ve written about location tracking here before, back on April 22 and on May 3. I also wrote about voluntary location disclosure and my use of FourSquare on May 6.

There's now a bill in the senate that would require Apple, Google and others to do more notification and to get specific permission from users before sharing their location information more broadly.

Senators Al Franken (D, Minnesota), and Richard Blumenthal (D, Connecticut), proposed the Location Privacy Protection Act on June 15th, attempting to address collection, protection and distribution of information about users whose mobile devices use cell towers, WiFi, and GPS, and as a result involve location data.

It's worth noting that this is not a new topic.  Almost 10 years ago, then-Senator John Edwards introduced a bill named almost identically and dealing with some of the very same topics - before today's technology had us carrying smart phones!  It was very forward-looking.  Unfortunately, it never made it out of committee and so never came to a vote.

As I've said before, user location is really very interesting data.  It has value to you and it has value to those who want to sell you things.  It could allow you to get help with directions, it can allow businesses to do targeted marketing, and it can and does play a major role in first responder effectiveness. I’m interested in how to preserve a user’s privacy while still allowing for location-enabled services.  Serious discussion involving legislators, commercial interests, independent technologists, and privacy advocates seems like an important step.

Got an opinion?  Please post here!

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