Sen. Franken Reintroduces Stalking App Bill

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) has reintroduced a location privacy bill, The Location Privacy Protection Act of 2014, that would outlaw so-called GPS "stalking apps" and give smart phone users control over very sensitive location information.

The stalking apps allow for the tracking of potential victims. In a video announcing the reintroduction of the bill, Franken talks about a Minnesota woman whose abuser texted her to ask why she was at a county building (she was there to enter a domestic violence program), then when she went to get a restraining order texted her again to ask why she was at the courthouse and whether she was getting a restraining order.

Franken pointed out that the apps advertise themselves as stalking tools. He pointed out that the most recent Justice Department figures on cell phone stalking date back to 2006, and even then there were 25,000 cases.

The bill would require companies to get consumer's permission before collecting location data off their phones, tablets, or Garmins, and would also require permission before sharing that data with third parties.

Franken is chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law.

The bill, which is co-sponsored by Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), would do the following:

"Require that companies get individuals’ permission before collecting location data off of their smartphones, tablets, or in-car navigation devices, and before sharing it with others. This rule doesn’t apply to parents tracking kids, emergencies, and similar scenarios;

"Stymie GPS stalking by preventing companies from collecting location data in secret;

"Require that any company that collects the location data of 1,000 or more devices publicly disclose the data they’re collecting, what they do with it, who they share it with, and how people can stop that collection or sharing;

"Ban the development, operation, and sale of GPS stalking apps—and allows law enforcement to seize the proceeds of those sales to fund anti-stalking efforts; and

"Require that the federal government gather more information about GPS stalking, facilitate reporting of GPS stalking, and prioritize training grants for law enforcement."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.