Franken’s Location Privacy Bill Voted Out of Judiciary Committee

Proposal won't advance until next Congress

Sen. Al Franken's (D-Minn.) location privacy bill requiring companies to get permission from users before collecting their location information was voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday afternoon in a bipartisan voice vote.

The Location Protection Act of 2012, better known as the Stalking Apps Bill, would criminalize stalking apps, an emerging group of apps that helps stalkers follow their victims. It would also address some of the problems brought to light by a Federal Trade Commission report released earlier this week that found many kids apps were transmitting precise geolocation information to third parties without seeking parents permission.

"Location information is extremely sensitive information. GPS can poinpoint consumers down to 10 meters of accuracy," said Franken during Thursday's committee vote on the bill. "Companies aren't protecting the information the way they should. Half of apps give out location information to third parties without users' knowledge," he said.

Even though the bill passed the committee, it is still being worked on. With very little time left in the 112th Congress, combined with higher priorities like the fiscal cliff, there's virtually no chance the bill will make it to the floor of the Senate this year.

Still, there's a lot of bipartisan interest in mobile privacy issues, so Franken's bill, which will need a House counterpart, is destined for next year.

That gives the interactive advertising community time to work on some changes they would like to see added to the bill when it gets taken up in the next Congress.

"As currently drafted this bill would place innovative and responsible companies under a complicated and difficult-to-implement legal regime that would greatly diminish the consumer's experience," wrote Mike Zaneis, the Interactive Advertising Bureau's svp and general counsel.

For example, in the letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the committee and ranking member Sen. Chuck Grassley (D-Iowa), Zaneis noted that the bill does not take into account services that have complied consent, such as Foursquare, or other mapping apps, that can only work by tracking a user's location.

It also lacks an exemption for data that is de-identified or anonymous, and cannot be linked back to a specific individual.