More Congressional action, same industry inaction

Share this article:
Congress is finally wrapping its head around mobile devices' GPS capabilities. Last week saw two bills introduced that would outlaw nonconsensual location tracking and sharing.

The "Location Privacy Protection Act of 2011," introduced by Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct.), calls for a location-tracking opt-in form, separate from an app's or service's privacy policy, terms and conditions, etc.

The "Geolocational Privacy and Surveillance Act," introduced in the Senate by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and cosponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), also bans location-tracking without consent but does not explicitly call for a separate opt-in form. Thee bill is also a bit hazy about the scope of consent. From the bill:  

"It shall not be unlawful under this chapter for a person to intercept geolocation information pertaining to another person if such other person had given prior consent to such interception..."

Not to wade deeply into legalese, but the passage's use of "such" could dilute the law. If I were a malicious developer, I could easily read the bill to mean if a consumer opts-in for App A (ex. Foursquare) to access my device's location, then App X could be grandfathered in. I assume loose reading not to be the senators' intention, but I assume just as easily that, if the bill passes, Silicon Backalley lawyers will challenge a narrower reading.

Say what I will about Washington being alarmingly technologically illiterate - a senator at a recent digital privacy hearing asked if Apple could track his location when his phone's powered off - Congress is finally taking technology a little more realistically. There's less fearmongering and more thoughtful bills.

Just as I only think one of the aforementioned mobile-location bills merits passage (Franken's, for its pragmatism), I think only one, maybe two, online privacy bills are ready to and will pass. Given the ongoing turf war between Franken's Senate Judicial Committee and Sen. Jay Rockefeller's (D-W.V.) Senate Commerce Committee, that passage could not be until next year, but it will happen. There's an appetite for it.

And if a data breach hits Facebook and lands online privacy affront Time magazine's cover with a companion 60 Minutes segment, that passage will be an early Christmas present for Ralph Nader and company and a nightmare scenario for an advertising industry unable to promote sufficiently for its future.
Share this article:
You must be a registered member of Direct Marketing News to post a comment.

Sign up to our newsletters

Latest Jobs:


Company of the week

Data Services, Inc. meets the needs of today's data-driven marketer by providing front-end database management and data analytics platforms alongside our expertise in global contact data quality, database building and ongoing maintenance that comes with our 45+ years in business.


Find out more here »

More in Direct Line Blog

Creative Marketing Is Good; Useful, Relevant Messages Are Better

Creative Marketing Is Good; Useful, Relevant Messages Are ...

The next wave of the digital evolution is pushing marketers toward hyper-relevance; but not everyone is catching on.

What (Truly) Matters to Millennials

What (Truly) Matters to Millennials

A recent study reveals the things that millennials really care about—and what moves them to make a purchase.

The Long, Hard Road to Marketing Sophistication

The Long, Hard Road to Marketing Sophistication

If there are times when you feel like you're way behind on the customer journey, well, you probably are. But so is nearly everyone else.