Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., co-sponsored the bill, which is called the Location Privacy Protection Act of 2011.
The bill would require device makers and app developers “to receive express consent” from mobile users “before collecting or sharing information about those users’ location with third parties.”
According to the senators, the bill “would close loopholes in current federal law to ensure that consumers know what location information is being collected […] and allow them to decide if they want to share it.” Of course, without location data, services like Yelp!, Fandango, and Google Maps (obviously), would be almost worthless, or at least no better than their desktop counterparts. Franken acknowledged that location data can be useful, “but the same information that allows emergency responders to locate us when we’re in trouble is not necessarily information all of us want to share with the rest of the world.
Franken as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law, has already grilled tech executives on privacy issues. Last month Franken held a hearing to ask questions of Alan Davidson, Google’s director of public policy, and Guy L. “Bud” Tribble, an Apple vice president. As expected, both Google and Apple defended their data gathering practices, pointing fingers at third-party app makers over which they’ve no control. Tribble added that the information tracked on iPhones isn’t necessarily the user’s pin-pointed location. It’s actually the locations of Wi-Fi network routers and cell towers connecting to the device that provide Apple’s location data.
Franken responded dryly: “I find that confusing.”
Google’s Davidson reiterated at the hearing that Android devices collect location data, but only with users’ consent. Any location data that’s sent back to Google location servers isn’t tied or traceable to a specific user.