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FTC Lobbies To Be Top Cop For Geolocation

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the king-of-the-hill dept.

United States 39

chicksdaddy (814965) writes 'As the U.S. Senate considers draft legislation governing the commercial use of location data, The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is asking Congress to make it — not the Department of Justice — the chief rule maker and enforcer of policies for the collection and sharing of geolocation information, the Security Ledger reports.

Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection, told the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee for Privacy, Technology that the Commission would like to see changes to the wording of the Location Privacy Protection Act of 2014 (LPPA) . The LPPA is draft legislation introduced by Sen. Al Franken that carves out new consumer protections for location data sent and received by mobile phones, tablets and other portable computing devices. Rich said that the FTC, as the U.S. Government's leading privacy enforcement agency, should be given rule making and enforcement authority for the civil provisions of the LPPA. The current draft of the law instead gives that authority to the Department of Justice.

The LPPA updates the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to take into account the widespread and availability and commercial use of geolocation information provided. LPPA requires that companies get individuals' permission before collecting location data off of smartphones, tablets, or in-car navigation devices, and before sharing it with others.

It would prevent what Franken refers to as "GPS stalking," preventing companies from collecting location data in secret. LPPA also requires companies to reveal the kinds of data they collect and how they share and use it, bans the development, operation, and sale of GPS stalking apps and requires the federal government to collect data on GPS stalking and facilitate reporting of GPS stalking by the public.'

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this IS news !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47175581)

who knew that the u.s. government had a "privacy enforcement agency"

Re:this IS news !! (1)

lawnboy5-O (772026) | about 6 months ago | (#47175619)

Sounds like Orwellian double speak to me... ;-)

Re:this IS news !! (2)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | about 6 months ago | (#47175829)

The funny thing about the FCC is that while most bribed politicians try and keep it a secret, these guys advertise it like a badge of honor.

Re:this IS news !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47177271)

The funny thing about the FCC is that while most bribed politicians try and keep it a secret, these guys advertise it like a badge of honor.

Good thing we're talking about the FTC then. That's the Federal Trade Commission for people have trouble reading acronyms, not the Federal Communication commission as you suggest. The FTC is one of the agencies that actually actively does things to protect US consumers.

Cellphones without GPS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47175585)

Sure, there's all kinds of benefits for consumers to have GPS in phones, but if one didn't want to use a phone with GPS, could they buy one without the service. Is it even legal to offer cell phones without GPS now?

Re:Cellphones without GPS (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47175773)

I think a lot of people will be interested in the British developments in using the earth's magnetic field as a type of magnetic map that a device can use to find its precise location on earth, accurately, and without any network of equipment (satellites, ground stations, etc). Right now its apparently a meter-long shoebox but they will eventually get it down in size. Using our own magnetic field for navigation, just like the birds do, is probably the future of all navigational aids just because of how accurate it can be without any support network.

Re:Cellphones without GPS (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47176103)

This will not be independent of "any support network". The Earth's magnetic field is constantly shifting. To use for location with precision and accuracy at small scales will require regular updates (even if not in-the-field) to the internal maps of the device. Already, compass users must adjust declination occasionally. In the short term, disturbances to the ionosphere and magnetosphere dominate the majority of disruptions. Solar storms are also problematic.

TL;DR: It's a great technology to have as one-more-layer of navigational ability, but to suggest that it will work all by itself, without any sort of reference being updated, is ludicrous.

Here's a map [wikipedia.org] of the magnetic declination lines over time, for the linguistically challenged.

Re:Cellphones without GPS (1)

The New Guy 2.0 (3497907) | about 6 months ago | (#47175835)

There has to be a way to determine coordinates in order for modern phone tech to work. If GPS is down, tower locations come out to what should be a similar answer.

Re:Cellphones without GPS (1)

nate_in_ME (1281156) | about 6 months ago | (#47175859)

I believe that all phones are required to have at least a basic GPS receiver (even the so-called "dumb phones") for E911 purposes, basically so that if you do call 911 from your phone, and you're not sure of your location, they can still find you.

Phase II E911 rules require wireless service providers to provide more precise location information to PSAPs; specifically, the latitude and longitude of the caller. This information must be accurate to within 50 to 300 meters depending upon the type of location technology used.

From: http://www.fcc.gov/guides/wire... [fcc.gov]

Re:Cellphones without GPS (1)

GNious (953874) | about 6 months ago | (#47177681)

Within 50-300 meters accuracy? Thinking they can usually do that by triangulation from 2 cell-towers.

1 cellphone-company was offering special rates when you called from home - they supposedly did this by a set of triangulation-operations to map out where your home is, and then later simply check where you are when you call.

Re:Cellphones without GPS (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | about 6 months ago | (#47175949)

Yes.

As I understand it, E-911 required that the carriers tell the 911 where the person is to within 300 feet. To handle this, some carriers just mandated that the phones have GPS. Other carriers used triangulation from the cell tower. So you can use a cellphone without GPS, but that doesn't mean that the carriers won't know where you are.

In fact, the carriers used to (and perhaps still do) have a service where they would text you directions to where you wanted to go based upon where you were. No GPS required.

Re: Cellphones without GPS (1)

WyldPhyr (3622571) | about 6 months ago | (#47176599)

Carriers can tell where you are without GPS, by seeing how far you are from a tower, and comparing that to how far you are from another.

Re: Cellphones without GPS (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | about 6 months ago | (#47176627)

...and then adding a third--triangulation.

As I understand it, though, it's a little easier said than done to get the required accuracy for E-911. But it isn't impossible. I believe it was AT&T that went the triangulation route and it was Verizon that just put GPS in all the phones. But I could be wrong...

Not stalking (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47175635)

I'm not stalking. I'm keeping track of my child/elderly parent.
Will this make find my friends etc illegal.

I'm here from the government and I'm here to help (2)

BrookHarty (9119) | about 6 months ago | (#47175739)

Just pass a law and let the states or local federal courts deal with it. The government doesnt need anymore power.

Re:I'm here from the government and I'm here to he (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47175803)

So that companies have to deal with 50 or hundreds of different laws just to operate in the US? That'll be great

Re:I'm here from the government and I'm here to he (0)

The New Guy 2.0 (3497907) | about 6 months ago | (#47175827)

Uhm, "Interstate Commerce" for why this must be Federal!

Re:I'm here from the government and I'm here to he (1)

msauve (701917) | about 6 months ago | (#47176065)

Yep. This seems to be a legitimate (albeit rare) exercise of the Commerce Clause, provided it doesn't affect non-commercial sites.

Re:I'm here from the government and I'm here to he (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47178655)

no.

What an ignorant moron you are. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47176151)

ROTFLMAO. You don't think "passing a law" doesn't give the government more power? (Not to mention, you seem blithely unaware that passing a law accomplishes nothing without a body to enforce said law.)

Thanks, but no thanks (3, Insightful)

Guppy06 (410832) | about 6 months ago | (#47175841)

Rich said that the FTC, as the U.S. Government's leading privacy enforcement agency, should be given rule making and enforcement authority for the civil provisions of the LPPA.

Considering how existing US privacy enforcement is an absolute joke, I think I'd rather try something new instead of "more of the same." Maybe the FTC could better spend their time, I don't know, jailing the traders that broke the economy?

Re:Thanks, but no thanks (1)

Pseudonym (62607) | about 6 months ago | (#47176447)

Maybe the FTC could better spend their time, I don't know, jailing the traders that broke the economy?

There's an idea. They certainly couldn't do a worse job of it than the SEC, right?

Revolving doors (2)

macraig (621737) | about 6 months ago | (#47175855)

Since these "commissions" like the FTC, FDA, and FCC have even more obvious problems with revolving doors then even the DoJ does, I doubt it would be a good idea at all to hand this off to the likes of an FTC staffed by former Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and telecom execs.

Where does it limit the .gov's use of GPS data? (2)

dbc (135354) | about 6 months ago | (#47176033)

So, according to the summary, it puts limits on commercial use of GPS tracking data. Where does it limit government use of GPS tracking data?

I see a flaw in their thinking. (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 6 months ago | (#47176085)

It would prevent what Franken refers to as "GPS stalking," preventing companies from collecting location data in secret.

You mean, punish companies that get caught collecting location data in secret?
If risk of getting caught * value of data collection average fine, then profit!

Laws don't prevent anything, they discourage it.

Re:I see a flaw in their thinking. (2)

NoKaOi (1415755) | about 6 months ago | (#47176259)

Laws don't prevent anything, they discourage it.

Not even that. In this case all it means is an updated EULA, where buried on page 15 will be a statement about their collection of location data, which everyone will simply click "agree" to. There will be a few stories about it on /. ("So-and-so big company collecting all your location data!"), and nobody but /. readers will care so long as the app continues to let them put fish-faced selfies somewhere that their "friends" (really their friend's friend's older cousin's barista's little sister) can see it and comment on it.

Seems reasonable for FTC to do this (0)

tomhath (637240) | about 6 months ago | (#47176167)

I don't see why Franken would want do give consumer protection authority to the Justice department rather than the FTC; that's why the FTC exists. Well, other than the fact that Franken is clueless; but I suppose you should assume that when you elect a TV comic to the Senate.

Re:Seems reasonable for FTC to do this (1)

thrich81 (1357561) | about 6 months ago | (#47176563)

You mean the Al Franken who graduated cum laude from Harvard with a degree in Government and who visited the troops in Kosovo and Iraq on some of his seven USO tours. Author of five published books. You can point to someone better qualified for the Senate -- perhaps some Wall Street titan or Fortune 500 CEO?

Re:Seems reasonable for FTC to do this (1)

tomhath (637240) | about 6 months ago | (#47178219)

Twenty years of writing Stuart Smalley scripts and a couple of handshake tours qualify a person for the Senate? Oh, and one book of satire that was rewritten five times. I suppose he's better qualified than a community organizer or former First Lady

Re:Seems reasonable for FTC to do this (1)

wynterwynd (265580) | about 6 months ago | (#47178581)

Last I checked the only qualifications you need to be in the Senate are that you be at least 30 years old, a U.S. citizen for at least nine years at the time of election to the Senate, and a resident of the state one is elected to represent in the Senate. You seem to be under the impression there is some kind of unwritten standard that isn't being upheld - nothing could be further from the truth.

You're awfully quick to dismiss a Harvard degree in government and a long time career as a political activist/satirist. That he is also witty and talented enough to be a long time performer on one of the top comedy/improv groups in the country is a credit, not an embarrassment.

Maybe he should call you for advice, since by your comment history you have a great deal of experience shilling for the other side of the aisle. Clearly you feel that qualifies you to make belittling statements about someone who opposes your political views and gives you insight into who should and should not wield political power.

Re:Seems reasonable for FTC to do this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47179021)

I live in MN, and I will admit that I didn't vote for Franken (like you, I thought he didn't have the chops), since he has gained office I have seen his name attached to so many privacy protection bills and other Good Things (TM) that I am proud to have him represent me. He is the first representative, since Wellstone, that I have actually wanted to vote FOR.

Admittedly, I was disappointed that he voted to extend the Patriot Act...

Re:Seems reasonable for FTC to do this (1)

sabbede (2678435) | about 6 months ago | (#47179095)

I listened to his show on AirAmerica a few times. I was not impressed. His analysis was awful, and he sounded like he was suffering a crushing depression.

Big gaping hole in the bill (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47176269)

"The LPPA is draft legislation introduced by Sen. Al Franken that carves out new consumer protections for location data sent and received by mobile phones"

What about location data obtained through tower triangulation?

Also, if the wording really is "sent AND received," then location data that is only sent would not be covered. It needs to be "data send and data received," or "data sent OR received," in order to be really effective.

Then again, we all know that these scumbags in Congress are trained well in the art of using the public's general ignorance of the rules of grammar against them.

Don't like being tracked? Turn off your phone (1)

WaffleMonster (969671) | about 6 months ago | (#47176845)

The problem with notification legislation it does nothing to address real world privacy violations. Lets look at Windows phone 8 for instance.

When you first set it up and wade thru arrays of privacy notices, license agreements and constantly nagged to allow something to upload all of your data, log your actions and tracking your location.

Even after answering no and everything off the system is configured in such a manner when you turn on "location" to use a local mapping application you also give MS the right to collect your location...so saying yes to using your location information privately also enables a third party to collect it...and if you don't like tough shit.

Huge percentage of Android apps demand your location and for most users tools to say no (ApOps, etc) are unavailable to them. Simply providing a take it or leave it notification in the real world solves nothing. Access demands have universally proven themselves to be worthless and dangerous in the real world.

Legislation route only works if "opting out" is mandated to be non-discriminatory where user is given enough granularity where their privacy will actually be protected. A choice along the lines of the subject is not a choice.

Personally I am opposed to this kind of legislation because it promotes locally optimal solutions... enough people need to refuse to tolerate the torrent of bullshit from mobile device vendors and associated ecosystem which continue to put needs of the user below needs of OS vendors, carriers and app vendors. We need to have enough people ticked off to support alternate solutions which put the user first.

No excuses (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47177047)

The last thing the FTC is more excuses for not doing their job.

Web browsers (1)

backslashdot (95548) | about 6 months ago | (#47177319)

Why is it that some websites/servers ask to access my GPS location? I am cool with them knowing my _general_ area like city or or town but not my drone-strikeable exact location down to a few meters. I blame the web browser. The application or web browser should give the user a choice of how detailed of a location (or even a bogus one) to pass on to a particular site. Actually, you know what .. I blame the operating system too. Why should locations be exact or nothing? When an application requests your location for the first time it should ask you whether you want to reveal your exact location or just your generic area or even a bogus location.

Why hasn't a generic location feature been added to any web browsers and/or operating systems?

Re:Web browsers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47177643)

On android, you should give xprivacy a try.

Re:Web browsers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47177805)

Not sure why lying / obscuring your location isn't a more common feature, I'd like that, too. Actually, the HTML geolocation API allows the script to specify whether or not it wants high precision location data (basically because GPS uses more battery power than just using cell tower triangulation), but I don't think any browsers distinguish those requests.

Re:Web browsers (1)

NotInHere (3654617) | about 6 months ago | (#47178601)

In Firefox, try Geolocater [mozilla.org] .

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