It has been a while now, so you might have forgotten the kerfuffle that occurred when it was learned that the iPhone was tracking the location of cell towers, which resulted in a fairly accurate data trail of the iPhone user’s travels. At the time I suggested that I expect laws to be passed about the handling of this type of information, and today Senators Al Franken (D-Minn) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) introduced legislation that will require platform companies and app developers to ask for explicit consent before sharing user location information with third parties.
You might recall that Franken hosted hearings in May that were triggered by the disclosures about the iPhone’s collection of location information, and the legislation introduced today is a direct result of those hearings. The disclosures, hearings, and subsequent publicity uncovered that smartphone companies, developers, and wireless Internet providers can freely provide customer location information to third parties without the customer’s consent. The Location Privacy Protection Act specifically addresses the issue of sharing location information with third parties.
Ideally, I think users would prefer that these companies not share any location information with third parties, but I doubt that these companies will completely stop doing so, instead, I think we will see specific disclosures and consent sought from users by both the operating system and applications. What will need to be determined is if an Android app specifically states that it shares location information with third parties in its permissions list, whether that provides sufficient compliance to the law, it is passed by Congress.