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FCC To Delve Into Location-Based Apps

Amidst a flurry of
Washington activity on the online geolocation front, the FCC Tuesday
announced it is holding a forum June 28 to help consumers "navigate"
location based services.

Examples of such
services would be, obviously, GPS apps, weather apps, or ones that let you know
where your friends are currently congregating or how close you are to the
newest movie, trendiest restaurant, or urgent care center.

carriers, technology companies, consumer advocates and academia will all be
represented, according to a public notice issued by the commission, which has
opened an official docket on the issue and will be collecting comment.

According to the notice,
topics of conversation at the forum will include the costs and benefits of the
services, best practices and what parents should know about geolocation on
their kids mobile devices.

"Recent reports
have raised concerns about the location-based information that is gathered when
consumers use mobile devices," the commission pointed out.

Those include Google's
admission it was collecting user data as part of its mapping initiative, and
Apple's admission that geolocation information being collected
by iPhones was being stored too long and not sufficiently secured. Both
companies have said the issues are being resolved, but Capitol Hill has drawn a
bead on geolocation, with hearings in the Senate last week and another this
week and legislation likely in the hopper or already on the table.

For example, just hours
before the FCC announcement, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced a bill
that would prevent companies from voluntarily sharing web
surfers geolocation information with the government.

The forum follows an FCC
internal working group's examination of the privacy implications of the
boom in location-based services, according to the commission.