GPS technology can be a powerful, useful, and wonderful tool—until evil use of it turns people’s lives into a nightmare. Stalking applications are designed to collect user data from the signal output of GPS tracked devices (like iPhones and Androids) for, as Senator Franken of Minnesota puts it, “nefarious purposes.” The information reveals the GPS enabled device owner’s every move, location at any given time and the route taken to get there.
Since his attempts to get passed the Location Protection Privacy Act of 2011 (it was left in committee at the Senate) and eventually of 2012, Franken has pushed for the passing of a bill into law that would supplement the Electronic Communication Privacy Act of 1986, which at the time had no way of taking into consideration GPS tracking technology. The original plan was to require companies to gain individual users’ permission before using GPS tracking technology to collect their data or to reveal that data to other third-party companies for marketing purposes.
Franken’s committee having sat down with various technology companies to discuss how a reasonable agreement could be reached, apparently many applications have taken the initiative and done that very thing themselves before the bill, if signed into law, were to hit. Should it happen, all apps that rely on GPS tracking would have to conform and not only ask user permission but also reveal how their info would be used and by whom; any handling of the data other than with pre-approval would be considered illegal.
Changes for the Better
Following upon a motion adding to the Electronic Communication Privacy Act of 1986 to require a warrant prior to gaining access to an individual’s electronic communication, several items have been expanded upon in Franken’s bill. The Location Protection Privacy Act in its current state will require companies to get parents’ approval before GPS tracking their children. The bill would also limit and/or abolish the usage of stalking apps and make stalking using GPS technology illegal; user privacy would be protected since a warrant would be necessary to obtain personal GPS gathered data.
This updated version of the bill has currently been passed out of committee to await Congress—first the Senate and then House of Representatives—and if approved eventually the President for signing.