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In 2011, one of Al Franken's constituent groups in Minnesota, the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, reached out to him about their concern over GPS tracking apps or "stalking apps" on mobile smartphones. Since then, Senator Franken has made this one of his top priorities.
In 2012, he introduced the Location Protection Privacy Act of 2012, which came through Senate Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support, but never resulted in a vote. Now, Senator Franken, as Chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law, is "reintroducing his location privacy bill that would outlaw the development, operation, and sale of stalking apps," according to a press release issued by his office.
Location Protection Privacy Act of 2014
Citing statistics about the number of stalking victims, and the number of apps that collect and share user information (legally under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act), Senator Franken explains that the Location Protection Privacy Act of 2014 would do five things: (1) require the user's permission before collecting and sharing data; (2) prevent companies from secretly collecting information; 3) require companies to share how and what kind of data they collect, and how users can opt out; (4) ban outright "stalking apps"; and (5) require the Government to collect and report on GPS stalking.
Potential Effect on App Makers
Some see the proposed law as problematic for app developers because they will need to "seek more explicit approval from customers, and to share with the public more detailed information on the data they collect," according to Inc. However, their position doesn't seem very sympathetic when you compare it to what customers would have to sacrifice. Shouldn't consumers be approving what kind of data an app collects anyway?
With privacy as one of the hot-button issues, we don't see this issue going away any time soon. Perhaps in 2012 Congress was not ready to act for whatever reason -- hopefully now they can at least vote on the proposed legislation.