The Secure Times

An online forum of the ABA Section of Antitrust Law's Privacy and Information Security Committee


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Two Federal Geolocation Privacy Bills Introduced Last Week

Two federal bills introduced last week aim at protecting the privacy of the geolocation of mobile phone users. One bill would regulate private entities, and the other bill would regulate law enforcement and federal agencies.

Senator Al Franken (D-MN), chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, introduced last week S.1223, the “Location Privacy Protection Act of 2011.” The bill is co-sponsored by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). The bill would only regulate companies. While the text of the legislation is not yet available, a press release states that the bill would:

close current loopholes in federal law to require any company that may obtain a customer’s location information from his or her smartphone or other mobile device to (1) get that customer’s express consent before collecting his or her location data; and (2) get that customer’s express consent before sharing his or her location data with third parties.”

Indeed, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (18 U.S.C. § 2702) can be interpreted as allowing electronic communication service providers, including smartphone and app companies, to share with third parties the location information of their customers without first obtaining their consent.

The other federal geolocation privacy bill, the “Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act,” was introduced last week by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and U.S. Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). It would regulate the government’s use of geolocation information. Its section 4 would make it illegal for the government to obtain geolocation information by making fraudulent statements to a telecommunications carrier, or by accessing the carrier’s customer account records without permission.