Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota is championing the cause of data privacy — specifically, he wants to keep the smartphone locations of women and children a secret from stalkers and third-party companies.
Franken's new bill, the Location Protection Privacy Act of 2012, would outlaw so-called "stalking apps," software specifically designed to track a person's movements via their phone's GPS signal and which is marketed for nefarious purposes.
What are stalking apps used for?
During testimony last week to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Franken told the story of a Minnesota woman whose abuser was sending threatening text messages based on her location.
One message asked why she was in a county building which contained a domestic violence program, a later message was received after she went to a courthouse to request an order of protection. Eventually, the woman learned her abuser "was tracking her through an app installed on her smartphone," according to Franken.
"Every smart phone out there is a personal tracking device that transmits our location," said Sen. Franken in a separate statement. "What most people don't realize is that the law allows companies to collect and disclose our location information without our knowledge or consent — and that a lot of companies are doing just that. What's worse, bad actors are using these same loopholes to develop and market stalking apps to the public."
The bill would also ban the tracking of children's location without parental consent and requires apps to get users' permission before collecting or sharing location information.
Franken's bill closes loopholes in the Electronic Communication Privacy Act, a 1986 law that still governs much of our online privacy but whose authors were unable to predict the GPS-enabled smartphones now carried in many of our pockets and purses every day.
Sen. Franken's office made it a point to specify the bill "does not concern or affect law enforcement location tracking," a hotly debated issue that's poised to become another focus of civil rights groups across the country.
How likely is Franken's bill to become law? It cleared a Senate committee hearing last week with support from both parties, Internet privacy groups and a long list of women's rights organizations. It will next have to get approval from the full Senate then the House before heading to President Barack Obama's desk for a signature.
Franken first proposed the Location Protection Privacy Act in 2011, but it failed to find it way out of committee.
Other updates to the ECPA requiring police to get a warrant before examining a suspect's emails cleared the same Senate committee late last month.
Should stalking apps be banned? Should developers need your permission before tracking your movements? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Photo via: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Source : https://mashable.com/2012/12/17/franken-stalking-apps/