Franken Moves to Protect Location Privacy

by Guest


By Hayden Creque, Creque Law

My locationLast month I wrote about Senator Franken’s work to protect consumers’ geolocation information.  On June 15, just over a month after chairing hearings that questioned Apple and Google on their data collection practices, Senator Franken introduced a co-sponsored bill that seeks to protect smartphone location privacy.

The Location Privacy Protection Act of 2011 (S.1223) supplements current federal law and requires companies that obtain a customer’s mobile device location to get that customer’s prior express consent and get that customer’s permission before sharing location data with third parties. Furthermore, the bill requires a company who obtains the location information for more than 5,000 mobile devices to take reasonable steps to protect that information.  The bill also contains provisions that require disclosure of information collected on customer request and deletion of the information in some circumstances.

Senator Franken’s office referenced, in support of the bill, a Wall Street Journal article from December 2010 that revealed that more than 45% of top 101 Apple and Android apps disclosed user location to third parties without consent. The bill was co-sponsored by Senator Blumenthal and also is supported by the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group among others.

The bill is instructive for every developer architecting or updating a mobile app.  Key takeaways include that:

1) every app must prominently disclose the collection of location information

2) an app should only share location information when necessary, and if the app shares location information it must be disclosed

3) any repository of app location information must be protected

It’s a long road from bill to a law and the Location Privacy Protection Act may not be a legislative priority.  Regardless, Senator Franken is right “geolocation technology gives us incredible benefits, but … is not necessarily information all of us want to share” — at least not unknowingly.


  • Meghan Wilker

    Ha! When I first read this headline, I thought it meant Al Franken had moved to a new house — to protect the privacy of *his* location.

  • Paul Scivetti

    Great! That's the ticket!  We truly need the folks in Washington DC – most of whom would be challenged to send an email all by themselves – legislating on mobile internet apps….NOT! 

    Seriously, how exactly is this going to be enforced?  Do we need a Department of Geo-location data monitoring?  What about companies based outside the US?  If I develop an app and host it on servers in Europe do I fall under this law?  Where exactly does a virtual company have nexus anyway?  This sounds like something the lawyers will like and that's about it.

    The internet user community is actually the best source for keeping companies honest. If companies are being weasels and stealing user information of any kind without telling their users, that information will get out and users will abandon the offending software in a heartbeat.  Look at Facebook who routinely change and/or ignore their own data privacy policies.  Yes, they still have a lot of users (for now) – but there are a lot of people bailing out as well.  You can only bend the rules so many times before people get disgusted or someone invents a better platform and then, before you know it, your business is gone.

    Senator Franken should spend his time working on things that really matter instead of wasting time on silly stuff like this.