Congress considers ban on smartphone tracking apps

The bill is aimed at makers of so-called smartphone stalking apps, which allow the location of a cellphone to be tracked in secret

Legislation that would allow civil lawsuits to be filed against anyone collecting and sharing location information from an electronic device without the permission of that device's owner is close to clearing its first hurdle in Congress.

Filed by Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, the Location Privacy Protection Act is aimed at makers of so-called smartphone stalking apps, which allow the location of a cellphone to be tracked in secret.

Action on the measure by the Senate Judiciary Committee was scheduled for Thursday, but that session has been postponed.

Franken was motivated to file the legislation after he learned about a Minnesota woman who was stalked by her abusive partner after he installed location tracking software on her mobile phone.

As the woman consulted with an advocate in a county courthouse, the abuser sent harassing text messages to her phone.

Franken's legislation amends the federal criminal code to bar any nongovernmental individual or entity engaged in the business of offering or providing a service to electronic communications devices from knowingly collecting, obtaining or disclosing to a nongovernmental individual or entity geolocation information from an electronic communications device without the express authorization of the individual using the device.

It also requires the maker of an app collecting location information to notify the user of an electronic device that the app is running on the device within seven days of its installation.

The measure includes an exception for parents who wish to install location monitoring software on electronic devices used by children who are minors.

A number of educational and information initiatives are authorized by the registration, including a national study on the role of geolocation information in violence against women.

Among the opponents to Franken's legislation is the Software & Information Industry Association. It argues that the bill would dull innovation in the private sector without really addressing the problem of cyber stalking. It supports voluntary but enforceable codes of conduct for its industry. Such codes, it argues, are a more effective means for increasing transparency and consumer confidence.

Nevertheless, geolocation information has been used by a number of apps for both Android and iOS phones with some creepy results. However, even if Franken's measure clears the Judiciary committee, it's unlikely that the bill will get much further before the final gavel comes down on this session of Congress at the end of the year.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags consumer electronicsappssecuritysmartphonesPhonesprivacy

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by John P. Mello Jr.

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place